Is my mom’s will valid?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is my mom’s will valid?

My mother made a new will 5 days before she died. She was in her right mind just
physically unable to sign it. Is it valid if I signed her name, at her request,
in front of 2 witnesses?

Asked on December 1, 2016 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It depends in large part on how you signed it. A person who is of sound mind may direct that a will be signed for her, if she cannot physically sign it, but generally, the person signing must also indicate on the will (typically under the signature line) that she or he signed for the testator (person making the will)--that is, you can't simply write your mother's signature, but must clearly indicate that you are signing for her. A failure to do so may make the signature invalid, because it purports to be something it's not: the actual signature of your mother (if you signed her name without indicating that you did so).
Also, even if the signature is technically valid, that does not stop your sister from attacking the will on the basis that your mother was not mentally competent when it was made; other common attacks she could make in this context would be that used duress against your disabled mother to make her sign, or used "undue influence" (a high degree of control you had over her life and access the world), or simply that you did not actually have her instructions or directions to sign for her.
To win on those challenges, your sister would have to have evidence to prove that one or more of those things happened, which she may not have; and you could present your own evidence to support the will (e.g. the testimony of the witnesses, who can testify that your mother asked you to sign). But be aware that even if the signature is, again, technically valid, that's not the end of the story: a challenge my be possible. Given that you signed, that the will was made just before the end, and presumably that the will benefits you more than your sister, there are facts that could suggest impropriety--at the least, your sister could, if she chose, state a good enough case to get into court and get a hearing on the subject.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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