Redding, California, Law Blog

What are the witness requirements for a California will?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | ESTATE PLANNING - Estate Planning

A will is a testamentary document that determines what happens with someone’s property after they die. Most adults over the age of 18 have the legal authority necessary to draft a will. 

They can leave clear guidance regarding the legacy they leave after their death and possibly also name guardians for any minor children in their household. When someone cares enough about their legacy or their dependents to create a will, they want that document to hold up under scrutiny in the California probate courts. 

Someone needs to be an adult and be of sound mind to draft a will in California. They also need to meet all statutory requirements for estate planning. What witness requirements does California impose for the creation of a will? 

Every will requires two witnesses

California law is very clear about the need to have two other competent adults serve as witnesses when someone signs a will. The need for witness signatures is one of the reasons why entirely electronic or digital wills are not an ideal solution for adults in California. 

Additionally, people should be aware of how the law restricts who serves as witnesses. There is a presumption enshrined in state statute that the documents may be the product of undue influence if a beneficiary of the will serves as a witness to its creation. 

In other words, testators generally cannot use any of their beneficiaries as witnesses without risking the possibility of legal conflict later in probate court. People who have nothing to gain from the estate are typically the best option. 

Understanding and complying with California’s laws regarding wills can help people create estate planning documents that effectively protect their loved ones.