Thanks to technology, estate planning has become more convenient and accessible. If you are a California resident and/or own property in the Golden State, then you shouldn’t delay creating your California-based estate plan. To make an online Will in California, take extra care to satisfy the requirements set forth by state probate law. Otherwise, your wishes could be rendered unenforceable by law (and defeating the purpose.) By understanding and following state regulations, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your property and loved ones are protected and that important matters won’t be left up to chance. This guide provides an overview of what you need to know about making a Will online in the Golden State.
What You Need to Know About Making a Will Online in California
The process of creating a valid Will in California is set forth by state regulations. The statutes regarding the execution of a Will can be found in the California Probate Code, Section 6110-6113, Execution of Wills.
An online Will can be valid in California so long as the requirements set forth by the above-referenced statutes are satisfied. Trust & Will breaks down these legal requirements over the next several sections by answering some frequently asked questions on the topic.
How Much Does a Will Cost in California?
In California, the process of creating a Will can cost somewhere in the range of $400 to $700. These are estimates that depend on three factors: the method of execution, complexity of the estate, and attorney fees (if you choose to work with one.)
For example, a person with a particularly robust or complex estate plan, or who has several unique provisions may hire one of the most specialized estate planning attorneys in the state. This person’s estate planning costs will likely be in the higher range. The cost may even rise to several thousand dollars if they plan to establish a Trust.
However, many people have relatively simple estates with straightforward objectives. Trust & Will’s online estate planning platform provides an affordable alternative that won’t break your bank. You can create your state-specific online Will through our platform at a fraction of the cost.
Are Online Wills Legal in California?
Yes, online Wills are legal in California so long as you satisfy the general requirements of executing a valid Will:
You must be at least 18 years of age (or are van emancipated minor)
You must be of sound mind and memory
You must make your will freely and voluntarily
The Will must be in writing and printed out
You must sign the Will at the end of the document
You must sign the Will in front of two disinterested witnesses
Trust & Will is a comprehensive estate planning platform that will help you create a legally valid California Will online by guiding you through easy prompts and steps. Note that you have to print out your online Will before you sign it, as the Golden State does not recognize digital-only Wills at this time. We will discuss this more in a following section that goes over the requirements for online Wills.
Is It Legal to Write Your Own Will in California?
Yes, you can write your own Will in California. Handwritten (holographic) Wills are legal and are better than having no Will at all. However, writing your Will on your own may leave you vulnerable to errors and pitfalls that could render your wishes legally unenforceable.
Instead, we highly recommend obtaining professional estate planning support. Some individuals choose not to work with an attorney for specific reasons, such as wanting to keep their private information to themselves, or finding attorney fees cost-prohibitive.
Whatever the reason may be, an alternative solution to consider is creating an online Will using a trustworthy platform. For example, Trust & Will’s estate planning platform offers state-specific estate plans so you can have peace of mind knowing that your Will is compliant in California and will achieve your desired outcomes. We also offer bank-level security to protect your private information.
What is Required for a Will to Be Legal in California?
In order for an online Will to be valid in California, it must satisfy the following requirements:
The Testator (the person writing the Will) must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind and memory.
The Testator must make their Will freely and voluntarily (can’t be forced.)
The Testator must sign the Will in front of two witnesses.
These witnesses must be competent and disinterested, meaning they are capable of making decisions, have the capacity to reason, and cannot be a beneficiary named in the Will.
The Testator and two witnesses must all sign the Will in one another’s presence.
The Will must be in writing and in physical form. While several states allow digital Wills, California does not currently recognize digital-only Wills. While you can create your Will electronically, saving it on your computer won’t make it valid under Golden State rules. You must print it out and sign it by hand. Luckily, Trust & Will makes this part convenient. Once your estate planning documents are ready, your documents will be mailed to you.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in California?
No, you do not need a lawyer to make a Will in California. Generally speaking, the laws do not require you to hire a lawyer to create or execute a valid Will. However, you may want to consult an estate planning professional for advice if you have a large estate or special conditions that you wish to meet.
Do Wills in California Have to be Notarized?
No, a Will does not have to be notarized in order for it to be legally valid in California. However, it is an optional action step that you can take if you wish for your Will to be self-proving.
If your Will is presented to the probate court, then they must validate it. If the Will is already self-proved, then the court won’t have to call upon the witnesses to testify regarding the Will’s validity. This can help minimize potential issues and allow the probate process to proceed more quickly.
To do so, you and your witnesses must go to a notary public. After confirming your identities, you will make sworn statements and sign an affidavit. The affidavit is notarized and attached to the Will. This essentially proves that the notary knows who you are and confirms that each person was aware that they were signing the Will.
Who Can Witness a Will in California?
Any competent adult can witness a Will in California except for an interested party.
An interested party is a beneficiary who stands to inherit property or assets from the Testator. In the Golden State, you are not allowed to ask one of your beneficiaries to also witness your Will. If they do, the probate code presumes fraud and undue influence and could invalidate the Will entirely.
In most states, it is discouraged for an interested party to witness a Will, but in California it is simply not allowed.
How to Create California Last Will and Testament Online
The Golden State does not currently recognize digital-only Wills, although this could change in the future. In the meantime, you can still create your Last Will and Testament online, so long as you print it out for signing and filing. This is a convenient, effective, and affordable alternative to writing your own Will or hiring an attorney.
With this in mind, here is an overview of the steps of creating an online Will in California:
Select a trusted online estate planning platform, service, or template.
Draft your Will
Review and finalize your Will
Print out your Will
Sign the Will
Obtain signatures from two competent witnesses
Optional: get your Will notarized if you want it to be self-proving
Upload the Will to a secure storage space online, such as a digital vault
Store the hard copy in a secure physical space, such as a safe
Review and revise your Will regularly
What Can I Include in an Online Will in California?
The contents of a Last Will and Testament vary widely based on an individual’s personal circumstances, as well as the objectives they wish to achieve. Must estate planning platforms such as Trust & Will will guide you through a series of questions and prompts to help you create your Will.
Here are some ideas on what can be included in your online Will:
An inventory of your property and assets
A list of your Beneficiaries
Gifts made to specific individuals or organizations
Your nominated Executor who should handle your estate
A Guardian for any minor or dependent children (or pets)
A named individual to manage property for dependent children
Last wishes regarding your remains, funeral, burial, cremation, etc.
Any final instructions or notes for loved ones
Create Your Online Will in California Today
Can you create a Will online in California? One hundred percent! Creating your Will online, no matter your location, is a convenient and affordable alternative to working with an estate planning attorney. The key to successfully creating an online Will in California is making sure that you satisfy state-specific requirements.
This guide provided an overview of the online Will requirements in the Golden State that you should be aware of.
At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement options today!
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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.