The California probate process outlines what makes a Will official very simply and rather narrowly. Though the CA probate code is long, that’s to cover every eventuality. These measures have been taken through the years to make sure that the Will accurately reflects the wishes of the decedent; it protects the rightful heirs and makes it more difficult for any kind of forgery or dishonesty (such as trying to set up your home for a Probate real estate sale) to be honored by a probate court. This means that your best bet to getting your actual Will honored is to find a San Mateo county trust attorney and have it drawn up professionally. You don’t have to, however; here’s what makes a Will official.
- Handwritten with Signature
You can make your Will entirely on your own, provided that you’re willing to write it out yourself. Wills that are entirely handwritten (or are handwritten for the vast majority of the piece) and then signed can be official Wills. You just have to be sure that there’s enough of your handwriting around (say, in a journal your heirs will find) that the handwriting in the Will can be matched to yours. Also make sure to sign the Will, and date it. That way the most recently written Will will be honored. If you have a Will with a trust attorney already and you make a new one but never file it, it will still be considered the legal Will provided its authenticity can be confirmed.
- Typed and Printed with a Signature and Witness Signatures
The most common kind of Will is typed up on a computer these days, and printed off to be signed. A typed Will can be made at home, but it’s more likely to be done through a San Mateo county trust attorney. In addition to the signature at the bottom of the Will, you’ll need two people to witness the Will and sign their own names as well. This makes it legally binding. Without two witnesses, the Will is not legal under the CA probate code and cannot be used to settle your estate.
- Something Confirmable as Intended to Be a Will
Times are changing. With more and more technology comes more ways to confirm information is authentic. With it comes more and more ways to have a Will. While the two traditional methods are still the best bet, CA probate code section 6110(c)(2) allows for Wills that don’t meet the traditional criteria provided there is “clear and convincing evidence that it was intended to be a Will.” Since this evidence is largely a matter of opinion, you’re better off making a written Will as well as anything else you might have planned to smooth the probate process.
- Copies, Undocumented Signatures, and More Don’t Count
There are many ways that a Will can be disqualified, but the most important one to remember is that copies don’t count. Unless it can be proven that the original Will was in a bank vault that was destroyed in a fire or similar accident, not even a trust attorney could present a copy of a Will in San Mateo county and have it count in probate court.
Additionally, a printed copy with a signature isn’t valid without witnesses.