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How do probate courts determine a will is authentic?

In a recent blog post, we discussed the purpose of the probate process. One of the primary purposes is to ensure the will is valid before moving forward with paying your loved one’s debts and administering their estate.

This is a usual part of the process, but many people wonder: how exactly can you – and the probate court, for that matter – confirm a will is valid?

How do you prove the will is authentic?

As you may know, a valid will under California law must meet a few particular conditions:

  • It must be in writing, whether typed or handwritten;
  • Your loved one – the testator – must have signed and dated the will; and
  • The will must also have the signature of at least two witnesses.

If your loved one’s will meets all of these conditions, then you can feel fairly confident that the will is valid, though an experienced probate attorney can also help confirm this.

Even if you determine that your loved one’s will is valid, it is still routine for the court to examine the will and establish whether it is valid when you file your loved one’s will with the probate court.

So, how do probate courts authenticate a will?

The probate court generally relies on the witnesses to affirm the will is valid. Of course, the will must meet all of the conditions to be valid, but witnesses serve as a living testimony that your loved one was of sound mind when creating the will.

Usually, a will includes a form with the witness’s signatures – this is commonly called the self-proving affidavit. You should provide this form with the will to the probate court to assist in the authentication of the will.

If there is no self-proving affidavit, witnesses may have to come forward and provide an official statement that they witnessed the signing of the will to authenticate it.

Why is this important?

Proving the will is authentic is a critical step for several reasons, but the primary reason is to officially recognize that the will is valid under the law.

It is also important since you want to protect your loved one’s legacy and fulfill their wishes. And authenticating the will is a necessary step to do just that.

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