Wills can be powerful estate planning tools that can detail how an estate should be handled after a loved one passes away. Although a loved one may have gone to the trouble of creating a will, however, this does not necessarily mean that the will will hold up later.
Here’s When California Wills Can Be Invalid
1 – When the testator has not signed the will
The testator, or the willmaker, is required to sign the finished will. If the willmaker never ends up signing the will, it will not constitute a legally binding document.
Here, it’s important to point out that many courts have a liberal view of what qualifies as a “signature,” as even markings like an “x” can be deemed to be a signature if it was intended to serve as such (for those, for example, who may have medical conditions that prevent them from being able to hold or maneuver pens).
2 – When two appropriate witnesses have not signed the will
Per California law, at least two people must be present at the same time to witness either the will being signed by the testator or the testator’s acknowledgement of the signature/the will being signed. These witnesses must also understand that they will be signing the will (and comprehend what a will is).
Witnesses will generally be considered to be incompetent when they:
- Don’t have the mental capacity to understand that they are witnessing/signing a will.
- Are beneficiaries of the will.
If a beneficiary serves as a witness to the will, the will can be invalidated – or the witness can be denied the gifts granted to him or her in the will (so that the will can still be probated), depending on the presiding court.
3 – When they are based on fraud
If the testator was duped into signing a will (i.e., was misled to believe he was signing one document when, in fact, he was signing a will), this can constitute fraud, and the resulting will can be invalidated.
Fraud in wills can also arise when a testator is lied to about some facts and includes provisions in the will regarding those false facts (for instance, if a testator is told someone ‘doesn’t need the money’ and, therefore, doesn’t leave that individual anything in his will, but this isn’t true, the omitted beneficiary can push to have the will invalidated because it was devised based on fraudulent information).
4 – When the testator was not of sound mind when creating or changing the will
For wills to be valid in California, the testator must understand that he is creating a will. In other words, he has to be of sound mind. If the testator did not have the mental capacity to understand that he was devising (or revising) a will, again, this can serve as grounds to have a will invalidated.
Contact a Santa Clarita Estate Attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman
Do you need help devising, updating or administering a will? If so, the trusted Santa Clarita estate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman is here for you.
To talk about your estate planning or administration needs and find out more about your best options for moving forward, contact our firm by calling (818) 946-0412 or by filling out the contact form on this page.
From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and the greater Los Angeles area.