Every adult needs a will. Wills are a necessary part of asset ownership, and they are of particular importance when you have dependents like children or a spouse. Whatever the size of your estate in San Mateo, a will is necessary to ensure your hard-earned assets go to your loved ones after your death.
Our estate planning attorney at Loew Law Group in San Mateo provides specialized legal services focused solely on estate planning needs. Our services include the creation of wills and trusts to help simplify the inheritance process for your loved ones.
Why People Need Wills in San Mateo County
A lifetime of hard work brings a wide range of assets for you to leave behind to your loved ones. When you have a well-planned will, you have the security of knowing that your wishes will be honored and all of your assets will transfer to certain people.
When you don’t have one in place or it isn’t written clearly, you risk complications like probate and contestation. Both of these outcomes can be expensive and slow to resolve. They also put your beneficiaries at risk of not receiving the assets you intended for them.
A will should identify all of your beneficiaries by name and list which assets or percentages each should receive. Assets to list include:
- Bank accounts
- Intellectual property
A will should identify an executor. This is the person you will trust to handle all affairs related to distributing your assets. Identifying an executor reduces conflict and uncertainty and helps asset distribution to occur more quickly.
If you have minor children, a will should identify guardians to raise and provide for them in the event of your death. If you fail to have a guardian designated, the courts can choose your children’s guardians.
When every aspect of your estate is considered and planned for in detail, you have the peace of knowing that there will be no confusion regarding your affairs, and your loved ones can be free from additional stressors as they mourn your passing.
What Are The Requirements For A Will To Be Valid In California?
Wills in the U.S. have specific legal requirements.
A will must be written by an adult of sound mind. This means you must have full possession of your mental faculties and understand your decisions and their consequences.
It must also identify beneficiaries by name, fully list all assets, and allocate all assets in detail. If any assets are left out or are not clearly allocated, distribution will be handled in court.
Finally, your will must have witnesses. The signatures of at least two witnesses and the dates of signing are needed. Wills written in privacy, meaning without witnesses present, are not legally binding.
If these requirements are not met, a will is not legally recognized in court. This means your intentions are not carried out, and your heirs are put at risk of losing the assets you intended to pass to them. The safest way to ensure that a will is legally binding is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
There are several different types of wills. Some of these are not legally binding but can guide a court’s decisions. Others might only be used in specific circumstances.
Most people making plans for responsible estate planning will choose between a testamentary will and a living will.
A living will covers many end-of-life decisions, including an advanced care directive. This gives instructions to relatives regarding important medical decisions should you enter a state of incapacity.
A last will and testament is more straightforward. It is concerned solely with asset allocation.
An experienced estate planning attorney can advise you on whether a less common type of will is ideal for your situation.
It is common for a will to face contestation by family members or other potential heirs. Contesting a will can be an expensive process that takes a long time to resolve. There is also no guarantee that contestation will result in overturning the will. An estate planning attorney can advise you on whether contesting a will is possible and what your likely outcome might be.
The best way to avoid leaving your heirs with this stress is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the will is legally binding and fully addresses all assets and how they should be allocated.
How Long Does Someone Have To Contest A Will In California?
In California, a will must be contested within 120 days from the date the will is admitted to probate. This deadline is strictly enforced.
The 120 day timeframe applies to both formal and informal probate proceedings. If no one contests the will within this window, it becomes final and binding.
There are limited exceptions that may allow an extension of the 120 day deadline, such as in cases of fraud or serious misconduct. But in general, will contests must be filed within 4 months from the start of probate to be considered valid.
Before the 120 day window expires, an interested party must file a will contest petition with the court. They must also send notice of the petition to all beneficiaries named in the will. This starts the legal process for challenging the will.
What Are The Grounds For Contesting A Will In California?
In California, a will can only be contested on limited legal grounds. The four main grounds for a will contest are:
- Lack of valid execution – Issues with the signature, witness requirements, or other execution defects.
- Lack of testamentary capacity – The testator was not mentally competent at the time of signing.
- Undue influence – Coercion or pressure invalidating the testator’s free will.
- Fraud – False statements that caused the testator to draft the will a certain way.
The contestant must prove their grounds using clear and convincing evidence. Just because someone doesn’t like the terms of the will is not a valid reason by itself to challenge it. There must be legitimate questions surrounding the will’s validity.
An experienced probate litigation attorney can assess whether valid grounds exist for a will contest in your specific circumstances and evidence. But meeting the high bar is difficult, so alternatives like settlement may be preferable.
Contact Loew Law Group for Your Wills Needs Today
Loew Law Group is an estate planning firm exclusively dedicated to estates, trusts, and associated disputes. When you work with an estate planning attorney at Loew Law Group, you can receive personalized guidance on how to best arrange your estate plans.
Contact Loew Law Group today to speak with an estate planning attorney in San Mateo about drafting a will to protect your assets and heirs.
Serving Belmont, Burlingame, Foster City, Redwood City, Hillsborough and all of San Mateo County California with their wills needs.