Thomas F. Miles, Attorney and Counselor at Law
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Understanding the requirements of a valid will in California

A will is an important estate planning document. Through a properly executed will a person may leave items of property to their loved ones, establish guardians for their minor children and make bequests to the charities of their choice. A will outlines how a person would like their estate distributed upon their death, but unless it conforms to the laws of the state a person's will may be contested or even set aside.

In order to create a valid will in California, a person first must be at least 18 years of age. Minors are not permitted to create valid wills. Additionally, a will creator must be of sound mind at the time their will is signed. Being of sound mind generally means that the creator understands what they are signing and that they do not suffer from a mental disease or defect that could cause hallucinations or delusions that may cause them to dispose of their property in ways they may not have otherwise wanted to.

The signing of a valid will must be witnessed by two individuals who also must sign the will. Witnesses can attest to the soundness of the will creator's mind and provide validity to the propriety of the will's execution.

If a person dies without a will, their property will be sent to probate and distributed according to the terms of the state's intestacy laws. Generally, closely related relatives, such as spouses and children, have rights to receive the decedent's property if no will is in place, though through a will a person may choose to disinherit children if they choose to do so. A will is incredibly useful for all individuals who want to have estate plans in place.

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