Silicon Valley Business School

Contents of SVBS Course: Wills

Ownership rights in intangible assets such as company shares, patents and trademarks are passed along upon the death of the owner, and tax liabilities are incurred. This module presents the law of wills and succession in the U.S., with special reference to California law. Topics covered include will formation, challenges to validity of a will, the treatment of spouses and children omitted from a will.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes

Upon completion of this course you will be able to:

Identify the steps necessary to form a will in the state of California.
Identify various reasons to justify a challenge to the validity of a will.
Recognize how children and spouses omitted from a will are treated and their claims handled in the law.

Course Sections

The course is organized into the following sections:

Wills: Making a Will
Wills: Dividing Property
Wills: Revoking, Challenging & Changing a Will
Wills: Intestacy (Dying without a Will)
Wills: Probate
Wills: Introduction
Wills: Community Property

Wills: Introduction
  • Video ~ History & Source of Law
  • Video ~ Rules of Interpretation for Wills
  • Video ~ What is a Probate?
  • Probate is the legal process by which the court administers a person’s estate after that person passes away.

  • Video ~ Does All Property Go Through Probate?
  • Video ~ What is an Executor to a Will?
  • Wills: An Overview
  • Wills vary from extremely simple single-page documents to elaborate volumes, depending on the estate size and preferences of the person making the will (the "testator"). Wills describe the estate, the people who will receive specific property (the "devisees"), and even special instructions about care of minor children, gifts to charity, and formation of posthumous trusts.

  • Reading ~ Top Ten Reasons to Have a Will
  • Having a will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Not only can a will legally protect your spouse, children, and assets, it can also spell out exactly how you would like things handled after you have passed on. This article outlines the top ten reasons to have a will.

    Wills: Making a Will
  • Video ~ Dying Testate
  • The estate of a person dying testate, with a valid Will, goes through probate and is divided according to the explicit wishes of the deceased.

  • Video ~ Will Requirements in the U.S. States
  • The various U.S. states each have their own probate codes, and their own peculiar requirements for making a valid Will.

  • Video ~ Will Formation in California
  • In California, a Will is valid when it is in writing, signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two persons present at the same time.

  • Video ~ Conditional Validity
  • Video ~ Holographic (Handwritten) Wills
  • Video ~ Can I Write My Own Will?
  • Video ~ Do You Need a Lawyer to Prepare a Will?
  • Video ~ Why Videotape the Execution of a Will?
  • Video ~ What Is a Living Will?
  • A living Will is the name given to a document in which you can set out the nature and extent of the treatment you would like to receive if circumstances ever arise in which you can't communicate, perhaps because of a stroke, or coma.

  • Reading ~ What Is a 'Valid Will'?
  • Reading ~ Signing & Witnessing a Will
  • Reading ~ Example of When a Lawyer Can be Helpful
  • Wills: Dividing Property
  • Video ~ Difference Between Per Stirpes & Per Capita?
  • What Is "Per Stirpes"?
  • What Is "Per Capita"?
  • Per Capita distribution of an estate provides each descendant with an equal share of the estate's assets regardless of the degree of his or her kinship. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., all receive equal shares.

    Wills: Revoking, Challenging & Changing a Will
  • Video ~ Revoking & Reviving a Will
  • Video ~ Waivers & Contractual Agreements
  • Video ~ Competency to Make a Will
  • Video ~ Interested Witnesses
  • Video ~ Menace, Fraud & Undue Influence
  • Video ~ Ommited Child
  • Video ~ Ommited Spouse
  • Video ~ Simultaneous Death
  • Video ~ A Specific Gift Sold or Destroyed
  • Video ~ Will Contests
  • A will contest occurs when someone challenges a will and asks that it be thrown out as invalid. They can only be brought by a person with standing - that means someone with something to gain, such as inheriting a larger share of the deceased's estate, or having a greater voice in managing the deceased's estate property, if the will is found to be invalid and thus will not be admitted to probate.

  • Changing a Will
  • How to Revoke a Will
  • In most states, revoking a will is pretty straightforward. Generally, you can revoke a will by (1) destroying the old will, (2) creating a new will or (3) making changes to an existing will. In some circumstances, simply giving away all or your property and assets before you die can have the effect of revoking a will (subject to estate tax penalties).

  • Checklist: Reasons to Update Your Will & Estate Planning Documents
  • Reasons to Challenge a Will
  • Anyone who may have an interest to gain from the will can challenge a will. The most successful challengers are usually the spouses, and the most successful grounds are that the person lacked testamentary capacity or that the person was unduly influenced or persuaded to write the will a certain way. This article outlines the grounds on which one can challenge a will.

  • Who Can Challenge a Will?
  • According to basic probate laws, only “interested persons" may challenge a will – and even still only for valid legal reasons. The Probate Code identifies “interested persons” to include children, heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors, or any others having a property right, or claim against, the estate being administered.

    Wills: Intestacy (Dying without a Will)
  • Video ~ Dying Intestate
  • What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
  • If you die without a will, it means you have died “intestate.” When this happens, the intestacy laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death. Real estate owned in a different state than where you resided will be handled under the intestacy laws of the state where the property is located.

    Wills: Probate
  • Video ~ What is Probate?
  • Reading ~ The Probate Basics
  • The legal process of transferring of property upon a person's death is known as "probate." Although probate customs and laws have changed over time, the purpose has remained much the same: people formalize their intentions as to the transfer of their property at the time of their death (typically in a will), their property is collected, certain debts are paid from the estate, and the property is distributed.

  • Reading ~ Probate Court
  • "Probate" is a legal process that deals with the assets and debts left behind after someone dies. By default, probate is supervised by a court, called the probate court.

  • Reading ~ Avoiding the Probate Process
  • The probate process can be long and costly, taking months and sometimes years to resolve. The longer it takes, the more it will cost, leaving potential heirs with less than the deceased may have intended. For these reasons, most people will try to avoid probate in any way possible. This article outlines four general ways to pass on your property and avoid the probate system.

  • Reading ~ Probate Lawyers
  • Generally speaking, probate lawyers -- also called estate or trust lawyers -- help executors of the estate (or "administrators," if there is no will) manage the probate process. They also may help with estate planning, such as the drafting of wills or living trusts; advise on powers of attorney; or even serve as an executor or administrator.

  • Reading ~ Avoiding Probate FAQ's
  • Wills: Community Property
  • Video ~ Wills & Community Property
  • Certificate Course
    This certificate tracks your progress and tests you in each section. Once you have passed all the quizzes, submitted an assignment and reviewed all the materials, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.