A will is one of the essential estate planning documents everyone should create. It enables you to express your dying wishes, including leaving your wealth and personal treasures to your loved ones. It also ensures the interests of those people you leave behind are taken care of so that no one suffers.
However, creating a will can be a costly affair depending on where you are. Expect to pay anywhere from $940 to $1,500. Luckily, you can download a template for an online will in California for free and still manage to ensure your wishes are followed to the letter.
These kinds of wills are known as statutory wills and work well for simple estates. But to create the will successfully, so it can stand in court in case those left behind feel like contesting it, it must be legally valid.
Online Will California Requirements
Since a will is one of the essential estate planning documents, you need to learn all the requirements that make it valid. Below are these requirements.
- The author of the will, known as the testator, must be 18 years or older. But you can also be an emancipated minor.
- You must be of sound mind as per California law. That means you must not have a mental health disorder with symptoms including delusions or hallucinations and must understand what you own and the relationship with your beneficiaries. Also, you need to know what it means to make a will.
- Typical wills in California can be handwritten. In such cases, if you are the testator, you need to date and sign the will once you have written it. It’s worth noting that you don’t need a witness in such a case. However, the will must be in your handwriting, which should be legible.
- If you type your will or use one created by someone else, such as an online will, you must have two adult witnesses. These witnesses must be present when you are signing your will and should not be your beneficiaries. They, too, must sign it. If some of your witnesses are beneficiaries, you need to find two additional ones who aren’t beneficiaries.
- You cannot make an oral will. The law won’t recognize your verbal wishes.
How to Make California Wills for Free
The easiest way to make a will in California for free is by using online wills. Below is the procedure for creating your California statutory will for free.
- Write down a list of everything you own that you want to leave to your loved ones. That will ensure you can remember everything.
- Find the State Bar of California website and search for the statutory will form. It’s usually in PDF format. Download it for free and print it.
- Read through the form and determine if the statutory will meets your requirements.
- And if you have any questions, it’s best to consult a lawyer first because California is a community property state. For example, if you intend to disinherit your spouse, you may need specialized legal help for that. But remember, it will likely cost you.
- If the template meets all your needs, fill in the blanks with all the required details. For example, if you have small children, you can designate a guardian to look after them when you die. You have the right to appoint up to three guardians. And ensure the people you include consent first.
- It’s essential to remember that if you cross out any words or add to the form, it will likely invalidate your will. Therefore, the form must be used as-is at every step. Ensure you have two witnesses present. Sign the will in their presence in the blank spaces allotted to the testator next to each box you fill in.
- Once you complete the form and sign, your witnesses should also sign it in the spaces allocated.
- Keep the will in a safe place.
California wills don’t have to be filed in a court of law when you are alive. In addition, you don’t have to have them notarized. You cannot use the notarization process to get around the two-witness requirement.
So, if money is a challenge, you can take advantage of statutory wills available online to create one for yourself without using a lawyer. And you can do so knowing you don’t have to spend a dime to take care of your loved one’s interests. However, if you need to make burial arrangements or include wishes the statutory will doesn’t cater for, you need to consult a lawyer to avoid costly mistakes.
- Thumbtack: Wills & Estate Planners on Thumbtack Cost
- Grossman Law: What Constitutes a Valid Will in California?
- Leginfo: Probate Code – PROB - DIVISION 6. WILLS AND INTESTATE SUCCESSION [6100 – 6806]
- Legal Beagle: How to Make a Will in California for Free
- CalBar: CA Statutory Will Form
- California Courts: Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation
- LegalZoom: How to Make a Will in California for Free
I hold a BS in Computer Science and have been a freelance writer since 2011. When I am not writing, I enjoy reading, watching cooking and lifestyle shows, and fantasizing about world travels.