In my wills and living trust practice, it’s routine for a client to come in wanting to draft a will. From time to time, that client doesn’t speak any English. This may be a bit of a hurdle, but drafting the will is far from impossible.
Where the would-be testator speaks a different language, a translator will be called in, either by me or by the client, and together, we’ll hash out the details and make sure the will is drafted to specification in accordance with California laws.
The requirements to execute a will in California are the same for everyone, regardless of language, literacy, or physical disability.Your will is valid even if you can’t read the words on the paper. The same goes for your living trust document.
In the deciding case on this issue, the court ruled that a California resident who spoke Italian and very little English still had a valid will because the testator’s friend had translated as the lawyer read the document during execution proceedings, and because the testator indicated that he understood what was in the will.
The policy behind this is to encourage people to make arrangements for the orderly distribution of their property to their intended beneficiaries either by their last will, or through a revocable living trust.
Failure to have a valid will or living trust in place could result in your property going to legal heirs that you would just as soon disinherit. Our lives and relationships are complex, and they deserve the extra effort that comes with drafting a will, or a living trust – even if it’s done in a non-native language.
Ultimately, my job is to make sure I draft the document to the client’s wishes, and to ensure that he or she is fully aware of and satisfied with the content whatever his or her native tongue.
The desire to protect our assets and provide for our loved ones is universal. Don’t let a language barrier stop your from carrying out your last wishes for your estate.