Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on May 3rd, 2016

Unwitnessed Will might still be Valid even Without Witnesses

According to the California Probate Code, wills must be witnessed by two parties at the time they are signed. Additional rules apply that dictate who can serve as a valid witness and under what circumstances the witnessing must occur. These requirements include being present at the same time and understanding that the instrument being signed is a will. The witnesses must also be of a certain age. Also, they cannot stand to receive property under the terms of the will.

While it is important for these requirements to be considered, not every will is witnessed by two eligible individuals in accordance with state law. If your loved one left behind an unwitnessed will, it may be grounds for a will contest.

However, the individuals attempting to have the unwitnessed will admitted to probate will have an opportunity to prove the following:

  1. That clear and convincing evidence exists that shows the testator signed the will.
  2. That clear and convincing evidence exists that proves the testator intended for the will to constitute his or her will.
  3. That since this clear and convincing evidence exists, state law dictates that the unwitnessed will should be treated as if it had been properly witnessed.

In order to have the unwitnessed will admitted to probate, other parties may be able to demonstrate that it should still be deemed a valid will by the probate court. However, if you suspect the will was fraudulent, the lack of witnesses may also support your attempts to contest the will.

Probate (noun):

The process of proving in court that the will of a person who has died is valid. Not all wills must go through this in California. See our infographic to help you determine if your loved one’s estate must go through probate.

Estate (noun):

An estate includes the things that a person owns. The things left by someone who has died can be distributed based on a Will, Trust, or Intestate laws. Estates have to be administered in the Probate Court if the estate meets certain criteria. See our Infographic on The Probate Process.

If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.