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Wills

Fresno Estate Planning Attorney Assists with Wills

Trustworthy drafting and amending of your most vital legacy document

The importance of a well-drafted and up-to-date will cannot be overstated. Your will is your last opportunity to express affection for your loved ones and support for the charitable causes you cherish. Your will assures that you transfer your wealth in the manner you wish to the people you choose. Without a valid will, California inheritance law dictates what happens to your property, and the results could be contrary to your preferences. At Gates Law Group, A Professional Corporation, we assist with all matters related to your last will and testament: effectively drafting, amending, and ultimately probating your will to ensure your intentions are implemented.

Drafting a valid will in California

There are certain requirements for a valid last will and testament under California state law:

  • Age of testator — The person executing the will must be at least 18 years old.
  • Mental capacity — The testator must be of sound mind.
  • Signature — One of the following must sign the will: the testator, another person in the testator’s name (done in the testator’s presence and at the testator’s direction), a court-appointed conservator.
  • Witnesses — At least two people present at the same time must witness the testator’s signing and sign themselves.
  • Writing — California courts will not approve an oral will.

California law does allow for a holographic will. Therefore, a will written in the testator’s own hand does not have to be witnessed. This rule can apply to certain fill-in-the-blanks will forms.

The rules for drafting a valid will are simple, but just because a will is valid doesn’t mean it’s effective or even enforceable. There are common mistakes that inevitably occur when an inexperienced person tries to execute a will. Even if you adhere to the formalities above, your DIY will could suffer from:

  • Partial intestacy — If you leave some of your property out of the will, the court has no instructions on what to do with it. That wealth must pass according to the state’s laws of inheritance.
  • Vagueness — If your instructions are not sufficiently clear, a court may not be able to determine what you’re asking for or who your intended beneficiary is. Your will could be void in part or in whole for vagueness.

To avoid these and other mistakes, consult an experienced estate planning attorney to create your will.

Amending your will when necessary

If you execute a will and stuff it in a drawer for 10 or 20 years, it is likely to be significantly outdated by the time it’s needed. It’s good policy to review your will every two to three years and amend it whenever your circumstances change. Otherwise, you could be neglecting defects, such as:

  • Omitting new family members from your list of beneficiaries
  • Retaining deceased family members on your list of beneficiaries
  • Leaving property as a bequest that is no longer in your possession
  • Leaving out property you’ve recently acquired

Amending your will is generally a simple process, but you must make sure the amended will meets all the requirements for executing an original will. We assist with modifications of your will to ensure its terms reflect current circumstances.

Probating a will after a loved one has passed

Probate is the process of getting court approval for the will and authorizing the executor to settle the decedent’s estate according to the terms of the will. We help clients probate their loved one’s wills. We also advise executors and defend wills against challenges from interested parties.

Contact an experienced Fresno estate planning lawyer for a free consultation on wills

Gates Law Group, A Professional Corporation handles estate planning matters, including wills, for California residents. Please call 559-432-9944 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. Our firm’s main office is in Fresno, but we also assist clients from locations in Paso Robles and Visalia.

Our Office
  • Fresno Office
    2445 Capitol Street
    Suite 160 E
    Fresno, California 93721
    Phone: 559-432-9944
    Fax: 866-740-6678
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