Stephen Cockriel Sept. 19, 2016

The validity of a will is important as an individual's last wishes are carried out in California. State laws can play a role in determining whether a will is considered to be valid. Although a will might not need to be notarized to be viewed as a valid document, the extra effort involved in having a witness sign the will in front of a notary could save beneficiaries legal headaches in the form of challenges later on. Because a will is considered to be the voice of the testator, probate courts will typically respect such a document unless there is a viable reason for a challenge.

The capacity to create a legal will could be one area in which the document could be challenged during probate. An individual creating a will must be at least 18 years old in most cases. An individual whose mental state interferes with the ability to create a will might leave behind a document that would be susceptible to challenge. Examples include those who suffer from mental conditions such as senility or dementia.

If a challenger can demonstrate that a will was created through forgery or fraud, the document could be thrown out. In some cases, a challenge might cause only part of a will to be negated. In other cases, the full document could be dismissed as invalid. In this case, a former will could become the standard for distributing the testator's estate. In other cases, a probate court might defer to state intestacy laws.

One of the most effective ways to avoid leaving legal loopholes for challenges to a person's last wishes is to have the formal documents created and managed by experienced lawyers. This could be particularly important if the estate plan is complicated.