What is a Self-Proving Will Under California Law?

The primary goal of most people in executing a will is to ensure that estate assets are distributed to designated beneficiaries upon the death of the testator. Still, you may have valid concerns that your beneficiaries will fight over your possessions. You may even worry that certain individuals may contest the will in its entirety, simply because they feel as if they are not getting what they deserve – or someone else is getting too much. There is no iron-clad legal strategy to ensure against these contingencies, but a self-proving will may serve your needs as part of a California estate plan.

Requirements for a Valid Will


Under the California Probate Code, a will must be in writing to be valid. In addition:

  • The will must be signed by the testator or another person as instructed by the testator; and,
  • There must be two witnesses present at the execution of the will.

Role of Will Witnesses


Upon your death, your will goes through the probate process of proving validity. The court turns to the testimony of the two witnesses who were present when the testator made the will to establish that:

  • They witnessed the testator sign the will;
  • The person making the will informed them that the document is his or her will;
  • The testator was of solid mind and had mental capacity to make a will; and,
  • The person making the will was acting freely and without duress.

Witnesses could provide this testimony in open court but, in many situations, this solution is impractical. Instead, it is possible to use a self-proving will and eliminate the requirement of presenting testimony in a courtroom.

California Rules on Self-Proving Wills


When the proper will language and legal arrangements are present, it is possible for the will to prove validity in itself. The court would assume the will is valid without going through a long, protracted hearing process. In California, a separate affidavit is not required as it is in some states. Rather, a proper self-proving will would include a signed witness statement that, under penalty of perjury, the testator had the capacity and intent to make a will, and there was no undue influence.

Discuss Wills with a Dedicated California Estate Planning Attorney

If you would like to know more about the requirements of a self-proving will or other estate planning options, please contact the Law Office of Charles D. Stark in Santa Rosa, CA. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and develop an estate plan that works for you.

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