Most people understand the importance of having a last will and testament. However, some Californians never take the right steps needed to establish an estate plan and cement their legacy. For those, writing a will is an undertaking saved for retirement. However, putting off estate planning until the last possible minute can culminate in confusion and unexpected complications.
Writing a Last Will and Testament in California
California law presumes that most adults have the capacity to write and execute a will, as long as they meet these requirements:
- The testator must be at least 18 years old.
- The will must be made in writing.
- The writer must be of sound mind and free from undue influence or coercion.
- The will must be signed in the presence of at least two competent, disinterested witnesses.
The Problem With Last-Minute Wills
Under some circumstances, a California probate court may accept a “deathbed” will made entirely in the testator’s own handwriting. However, relying on a hastily-prepared testament can create trouble for the estate’s executor and its beneficiaries.
Even if a deathbed will meets California’s legal requirements, it is not necessarily immune from challenges. Under state law, a last will and testament could be found invalid if any of the following circumstances exist:
- The testament is valid, but it contains ambiguous language that makes it difficult for the executor or the probate court to determine the writer’s actual intent.
- The testator was suffering from an age-related mental illness or cognitive condition that rendered them unable to understand how writing a will could affect the distribution of their assets.
- An executor, heir, or other interested party believes the will is fraudulent or was created under duress.
During a will contest, claimants must be able to establish standing and provide evidence in support of their argument. However, even when a bad-faith challenge fails, the costs of litigation can thrust an estate to the brink of insolvency, leaving little for the decedent’s intended heirs.
The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. for Your Estate Planning Needs
If you need to create an estate plan, update your current plan, or handle the estate of someone who’s died, The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. is here to help. We only handle estate planning and post-death administration, and together, our attorneys have more than 70 years of combined experience in these fields.
Our law firm has helped over 25,000 people in California leave a lasting legacy to their loved ones, getting to know each client, listening to their concerns, and learning about their needs and goals to create a plan that carries out their wishes. Additionally, we’ve implemented 4,000 plans after clients have passed away. Let us take care of you throughout the estate planning process. Contact The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc., or call us at 1-800-756-5596.