Planning the management and distribution of your estate can be daunting, especially when drafting a solid, legally binding will. Your will is more than a document. It’s the key to ensuring that your assets are disbursed appropriately, your family’s future is protected, and your legacy is secure after you die.

At The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP, we understand the complexities and nuances of estate planning law in California. We also know you deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes respected when you pass. That’s where our team comes in.

Drafting a will is a task that requires not just legal knowledge but also empathy and understanding. Our dedicated Bakersfield estate planning lawyers possess all these qualities and the experience to handle every aspect of your estate plan.

Don’t leave your legacy to chance. Instead, trust The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP with your estate planning needs, including drafting, reviewing, and, when necessary, updating your will. Contact us today to speak with a Bakersfield, California, will attorney.

What Are California Will Requirements?

A well-crafted will can provide peace of mind and ensure your final wishes are respected, but only if it’s prepared according to state law. The following are essential legal requirements for a valid last will and testament in California:

  • Age – Under California law, only individuals 18 and older have the legal authority to create wills.
  • Capacity – You must also be of sound mind to make a valid will, meaning you must understand the nature of the will, your relationship to your assets, and the implications of your decisions.
  • Writing – California requires wills to be in writing. While holographic (handwritten) wills are recognized, a typewritten will is often clearer and less likely to be contested.
    Signing – You must sign your will or direct someone else to sign it in your presence.
  • Witnesses – Finally, your will must be witnessed by at least two people who understand they are witnessing a will signing. These witnesses must sign the will in front of you.

Creating a valid will is one of the best ways to protect your assets and loved ones. The estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP can help you understand and implement the best strategies for your will and all other elements of your estate plan.

How to Create a Will in California

Drafting a valid will in California involves several vital steps, which include:

  • Creating an exhaustive inventory of your assets and accounts
  • Identifying beneficiaries who will inherit your assets
  • Selecting an executor to validate and execute your will
  • Choosing a trusted guardian if you have minor children
  • Drafting your will with the help of a California estate planning lawyer
  • Signing your will in the presence of chosen witnesses
  • Having at least two witnesses sign the will along with you
  • Considering a self-proving affidavit to further secure your will
  • Storing your will in a safe location and informing your executor
  • Reviewing and updating your will regularly and after life events

Can I Write My Own Will in California?

Yes. California law allows you to write your own will. However, creating a legally sound will is complicated and requires a thorough understanding of the law. A valid will can ensure that your wishes are executed as intended. On the other hand, a poorly executed will could lead to unpleasant disputes and financial hardship for your loved ones.

When you prepare your will, you must meet specific legal requirements regarding age, capacity, and the presence of witnesses for it to be valid. While these rules might seem straightforward, the way you draft your will can directly impact its validity, and it’s best to avoid leaving such matters to chance.

We at The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP, strongly recommend seeking legal counsel when preparing your will. A Kern County estate planning lawyer can help you verify the legal validity of your will and protect your legacy.

Are Handwritten Wills Legal in California?

Yes. Handwritten or holographic wills are legal in California, provided they are entirely in your own handwriting and duly signed. The convenience of a holographic will might be appealing, but keep in mind that it can also raise issues when it comes time to interpret and validate the will.

Unlike typewritten wills, holographic wills do not require witnesses. This lack of witnesses could lead to disputes regarding the authenticity and intent of the document. Despite the legality of handwritten wills, it is worth having a will professionally drafted and witnessed. That way, the legitimacy and specifics of your will are less likely to be questioned, and your loved ones are less likely to get caught up in disputes.

What to Consider When Drafting a Will

Drafting a will is a big step in securing your legacy and protecting your loved ones’ futures. To ensure your will handles your affairs precisely the way you want, you should consider several key points:

  • Asset Identification – Identify and enumerate all your assets, including real estate, vehicles, jewelry, investments, and other valuable possessions you want to entrust to loved ones.
  • Choice of Beneficiaries – Specify who will inherit which assets and in what proportions. This could include relatives, friends, or even nonprofits.
  • Choice of Executor – You’ll also want to choose a reliable person to execute the terms of your will after your passing. Make sure you select someone trustworthy and capable who will be willing to follow your directives.
  • Guardianship – If you have minor children, naming a guardian in your will is essential. Doing so lets you clarify your preferences regarding your children’s future care.
  • Special Instructions – If you have specific desires for certain items, beneficiaries, or any other personalized instructions, you can include them in your will.

Does a Will Need to Be Notarized in California?

No. Notarization is not a requirement for a will to be valid in California since it isn’t necessary for holographic wills.

A self-proving affidavit is a recommended addition to your will. A self-proving affidavit is a legal document that verifies the authenticity of your will and confirms that you met all legal requirements in creating it. This type of document can expedite the probate process significantly. It can also provide an extra layer of assurance, but it’s not required to make a will valid.

How Do I Change My Will?

If you want to update your will in California, you have a couple of options. For one, you could make a new will and make sure it explicitly revokes the old one. You could also make a codicil to your existing will. A codicil is a written amendment that follows the same signing and witnessing requirements as a will.

Note that even minor changes could have significant implications for the rest of your will. Therefore, you should always seek professional legal guidance when considering any modifications to your will.

Differences Between a Trust vs. a Will in California

Trusts and wills are both effective estate planning tools, but they have distinct purposes and functions.

A will outlines how your assets should be distributed when you die and only takes effect after you pass away. In contrast, a trust can be effective immediately upon creation and can be used to manage your assets both during your lifetime and after your death.

One significant advantage of a trust is that assets in the trust typically bypass the probate process, saving your loved ones time and money. Talk to a Kern County estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP today to discuss how a trust could fit into your estate plan.

Common Disputes Over a Will

Disputes over wills can be stressful and emotionally charged, often stemming from confusion or differing interpretations of a will’s contents. Common disputes include:

  • Validity Disputes – These disputes arise when there are questions about the legality or proper execution of a will. This could involve disputes over the will’s creation, such as whether the testator was of the appropriate age and mental capacity to make a will or whether appropriate procedures were used to sign and witness the will.
  • Interpretation Disputes – In these cases, the wording or terms of the will are unclear, ambiguous, or open to interpretation. These disputes frequently involve disagreements among beneficiaries about what the testator intended.
  • Capacity Disputes – These disputes arise when there are doubts about the testator’s (maker’s) mental state at the time of the will’s creation. Some parties might raise questions about whether the maker fully understood the implications of the language in their will.
  • Undue Influence Disputes – These conflicts arise when someone suspects that the maker was unduly pressured or manipulated into making the will or including specific provisions. This might involve coercion or exploitation of a position of power.

These potential conflicts underscore the importance of drafting your will clearly and professionally to reduce the risk of misinterpretation and messy disputes among your loved ones.

What Is a Living Will vs. a Living Trust?

A living will, despite its name, isn’t actually a will. It’s a legal document specifying your wishes regarding medical treatment and care you might receive if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself.

On the other hand, a living trust allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime and describes how these assets should be handled after your death. A living trust provides a way to control and protect your assets and possibly avoid probate, whereas a living will expresses your health care preferences.

Contact Our Bakersfield Wills Lawyer Today

It might be tempting to try drafting a will on your own, but the intricacies of estate law make it all too easy to overlook critical details. A single, simple mistake could lead to disputes or even invalidate your will.

When you work with a California will lawyer from The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP, you can confidently face the estate planning process, knowing the will you create will be comprehensive, clear, and legally sound. Secure your peace of mind today by contacting us to learn what we can do for your future.