Though the process to make a will is similar in every state, there are important differences to know. Every state has its own requirements for a will to be considered valid. To make a will online in California, you want to make sure that you follow the specific statutes that are required. It is best to use an online will that is customized for California.
Can I Make a Will Online in California?
Yes, you can make a will online in California. You can use an online will making service to do so. Our lawyer reviewed multiple online wills to find the best online will making service. USLegalWills delivered the highest quality online last will and testament.
Here are the legal requirements for online will making in California:
- The person writing the will, also known as the Testator, must be at least 18 years old.
- The Testator must be of sound mind.
- After making a will online, it must be printed out. Some states allow digital-only wills, meaning the will can be made online, signed, and witnessed electronically without printing out. However, the state of California does not allow digital-only wills.
- The will must be signed by at least two witnesses. Everyone needs to sign the will in each other’s presence. This means that both witnesses need to see the Testator sign the will, and both witnesses need to sign the will in each other’s and the Testator’s presence.
In California, under a court order, a conservator may make a will for the conservatee. This does not impair the right for the conservatee, if they are mentally competent, to revoke or amend a will made by a conservator or to make a new will.
Does California Require a Notarized Will?
No, California does not require a will to be notarized for it to be legal. Some states allow for a separate notarized document called a “self-proving affidavit,” but California allows your will to be self-proved without it. As long as you and your witnesses sign the will correctly, your will is considered to be self-proved. In order to guarantee that your will is valid, make sure that both witnesses are present at the same time. You must make sure your witnesses understand that it is your last will and testament, and then you sign it in front of them. After confirming that they both know what they are signing, have them sign it in each other’s and your presence.
If you believe your will might be contested in any way, you can obtain a “self-proving affidavit” and attach it to the will. You do this by signing and having your witnesses sign the affidavit in front of a notary public. While it is not legally required in California, it may be a good idea if you think someone might contest your will.
Can I Name an Executor in California?
Yes, you can name an executor in your will in California. The executor is who you choose to settle your estate and who ensures your will is followed. You want to select someone you know and trust to be the executor of your estate. If you do not name someone as an executor, the state of California will appoint someone.
Here are the requirements for an executor in California:
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Must be of sound mind (that is, not judged incapacitated by a court).
Many states disallow people who have been convicted of a felony from serving as an executor. However, in California, there are no statutes that prohibit you from selecting someone with a felony conviction. But a California probate court can reject someone if it finds any “grounds for removal,” meaning that the court may decide that the person you’ve named as the executor is incapable, be that because they cannot carry out the necessary duties or if they are likely to mismanage your estate. You should choose someone who you know is competent and trustworthy to handle settling your estate.
To name an executor who lives out-of-state, California does not impose any special requirements. Though considering that settling an estate can sometimes take weeks or months, you may want to choose someone nearby.
Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Will in California?
No, you do not need an attorney to make a will in California. However, in some situations—for example, if the estate is very large or complex—it is wise to consult an estate planning attorney. Though for simple estates and straightforward wills, online will making is a good option. To make a will online in California, you want to make sure to follow the state’s specific guidelines. You should also use an online will making service that has templates designed for California.
What Types of Wills Are Valid in California?
Making a will online or otherwise, any type of will which meets the federal and state-specific requirements is valid in California.
Can I Make a Holographic Will in California?
Yes, you can make a holographic will in California and it be valid. A holographic will is a handwritten last will and testament. A holographic will is also one that has no witnesses, only signed by the person writing the will. In California, a holographic will is valid if the will is signed and all the material provisions are in the Testator’s handwriting. Other criteria for a holographic will to be valid in California are:
- There must be no question that the Testator was of sound mind and not under duress when writing the will.
- It must be clear that the Testator intended for the document to serve as their last will and testament.
- The Testator must sign it in their usual signature.
While holographic wills that meet the above criteria are considered valid, they often can face delays in probate court. Your handwriting has to be proven authentic, for example. If it is not dated, it is invalidated until other statutory requirements are met. You can choose to make a holographic will in California, but keep in mind that it can be contested much easier. It is a better option to make a will online in California than to make a holographic will.
Can I Make a Nuncupative or Video Will in California?
A nuncupative will is an oral will, and some individuals wish to leave oral wills on video. California does not recognize nuncupative wills.
A nuncupative will is considered an emergency or last resort type of will; if the individual is facing imminent death and cannot draft a written will, leaving a nuncupative will for your family is better than leaving no instructions at all. But if you leave a nuncupative will in California, the court will not recognize it.
How Is a Living Will Different from an Online Will in California?
An advance directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document with instructions on medical decisions and end-of-life care should you become incapacitated. A living will is not the same as an online last will and testament; they are two separate documents. Because a last will and testament is typically not read until after the funeral, it is not the right place to leave medical directives or end-of-life care decisions. Instead, leave these instructions in a living will. You can make both a last will and testament online.
You can find a template for a California living will here. Requirements for a living will to be valid in California are:
- It must be printed and signed.
- It must be signed by two witnesses, or
- It must be signed by a notary.
Your two witnesses must be qualified adults. They cannot be your healthcare provider or be an employee of the facility you are receiving care. They also cannot be the person you have appointed as your agent, if you appoint someone as your agent. At least one of the witnesses must be unrelated to you by blood, marriage, or adoption and not entitled to any portion of your estate.
Why Do I Need to Make a Will Online in California?
If an individual dies without a will, the intestacy laws of California will determine what happens to all the property which belonged to that person. This can become a complex legal process. The estate is divided between surviving family members through California’s intestacy distribution laws, which you can find here, and property can be held up in the probate court process for a long time. By choosing to make a will online in California, the process is a lot quicker.
What Can I Include in an Online Will in California?
In addition to naming an executor for your estate, you can also include the following when making a will online in California:
- Designate a guardian for minor children.
- Designate a trusted person to oversee any property left to minor children.
- Leave property or gifts to other family, individuals, charities, or organizations.
- Choose a trusted person to care for remaining pets.
- Distribute family heirlooms and sentimental items.
What Should Not Be Included in a Will in California?
You do not want to include medical directives, end-of-life care decisions, or funeral instructions in your will. When someone dies, the funeral is usually held immediately. It is not until after the funeral that the last will and testament is read. Because of this, the will is not the right place to leave medical directives or funeral instructions.
For medical directives or end-of-life care instructions, create a living will.
For funeral directions, talk with a family member about your wishes. You can also make a separate document describing what you wish for your funeral arrangements. You should give the document to the executor of your estate.
Can I Change or Revoke an Online Will Made in California?
Creating a will, whether online or not, is a legally binding document. But you can change or revoke your will at any time.
In California, to change or revoke your will, you:
- Destroy it physically by burning, tearing, canceling, or obliterating it with the intent of revoking it.
- Order someone to destroy it physically in front of you.
- Make a new will that states it revokes the old one or include contradictory terms to the old one.
Marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, acquisition of new or significant assets, or relocation to another state or country are all good reasons to update your will. You should update your will after any major life change. If you only want to make minor changes to a will, add an amendment called a codicil. A codicil must be finalized in the same way that the original will is finalized. This means you must sign the codicil in front of two witnesses who also sign it in front of you while in each other’s presence.
How Do I Finalize an Online Will in California?
To make a will online in California and finalize it, take these steps:
- Print it out,
- Sign it in front of two witnesses, and
- Have the two witnesses sign it in each other’s and your presence.
California does not require a separate notarized affidavit to be considered “self-proven,” but you can still attach one to your will to make it harder to contest.
Special Considerations in California:
- California is a community property state, meaning all assets acquired during marriage are owned equally by both persons. You can still distribute your half of the marital property any way you want.
- You cannot disinherit a child simply by omitting them in the will. The state of California will assume that you simply forgot to include them and give them equal share of your estate. If you intend on disinheriting a child, you may want to consult an attorney to make sure it can be enforced.
USLegalWills is our recommendation for an online last will and testament. Their pricing is fair and the process of making an online will is easy. You can also create a Living Will. USLegalWills offers a free service to document funeral wishes and save final messages for loved ones.