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What can a California court do with a foreign will?

With as many posts as we have written regarding the validity of wills, we have not broached the topic of whether foreign wills are valid. This question is becoming more important as many people who become married in foreign countries come to the United States under H-1 visas and the like and develop careers and families.

If a foreign national passes away and has a foreign will, chances are that a California probate court may be asked to validate it. This may be especially complicated if the person has property in the foreign country as well as in the United States. So the question is, would a foreign will be held to be valid?

As usual, the basic answer is: it depends. Generally a foreign will we be seen as valid as long as it follows the requirements for wills in California. Essentially a will must be executed with testamentary intent (specific intent to have the document constitute his or her will), the testator (the person signing the will) must have testamentary capacity; which means that they know they are signing a will; the will must be signed free of duress or undue influence and must include the proper witness signatures.

Also, California would likely recognize other types of wills, such as holographic wills, even if they are written in a foreign language. However, it is unlikely that a California court would recognize a nuncupative will.

So if you have questions about how to (or whether to) probate a will executed in  a foreign country, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help. 

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