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Navigating probate cases in Northern California can be challenging, especially when a new will emerges. The first question that comes to mind in this type of situation is does a new will override an old will in Northern California. 

Legally, if a new will is found and it has a different content than the last will, everything will be according to it. However, there are exceptions. For a new will to override an old one, it must be valid and legally correct. If not, it cannot supersede the old will.

Here in this guide, we’ll explain what California laws say about the will and whether a new will cancels an old will. We’ll also touch on the subject such as the importance of notifying the executor or registering the will.

Laws of Will In California

California has some important laws about creating a will. If any will doesn’t meet the law, it won’t be considered valid and can’t override the old will. You can read the brief overview of the laws of Prob. §§6100 below: 

  • The testator must be 18 years of age or older.
  • The testator must be of sound mind.
  • Two witnesses must sign the will for its verification.

The laws above are the most basic requirements. Apart from these laws, the new will must state that the old will is no longer effective and provide detailed and specific information about who the designated beneficiary is.

Does A New Will Cancel An Old Will?

Yes, a new will can cancel the old one if it’s written correctly, has the witness’s signature, and states that the old will is no longer effective. There’s another important point, which is that the testator must be of sound mind. 

For example, if someone contested your new will on the basis that the testator was not of sound mind while writing will, the case will go in a different direction. The court will check the will’s validity with the deceased person’s medical history. 

If it’s proved that the deceased person (testator) was ill, on a deathbed, or under the influence of medicine, the new version of will not be considered authentic. However, if the testator has destroyed the old will through burning, shredding, etc, the new one will be considered valid. 

Can A Will Be Changed Without The Executor Knowing?

Yes, a will can be changed without the executor knowing but it’s advisable to keep them informed. It’s upon the testator (someone who creates the will) whether they want to change a specific part of the will or write a new will. 

Legal experts recommend informing the executor of any alterations in the will due to their responsibilities in the matter. Without knowledge of these changes, the executor may encounter difficulties filing the correct will in the probate court.

You should also share the location of where the will is stored so the executor can locate it and file for probate on time. Neglecting these steps may result in legal complications in the probate court. 

If A Will Is Not Registered, Is It Valid?

As per California law, notarization isn’t necessary for a will to be valid. Nortaziation doesn’t fulfill witness requirements; however, it can smooth the probate process. In many states, notarization of will eliminates the step of taking witnesses to court for validation. 

It’s a simple legal process in which the testator goes to a nearby notary office, presents documents like a new will and ID card, and signs them before an official. This step ensures that the will isn’t signed under anyone’s influence and is the last wish of the deceased person. 

Final Words 

Does a new will override an old will in Northern California? Yes, if the new will has been written properly and meets all requirements of laws, it can override the old will easily. Just remember, it’s important to write that the old will is invalid on the new will to prove its authenticity. 

Any testator who fails to meet the criteria won’t be considered valid. That’s why it’s best to consult a last will and testament attorney. They’ll guide you about the proper process and what you should do to revoke an old will. 

Hiring an attorney isn’t as easy a task as it may seem. Not every attorney is well-versed in the intricacies of probate law, and finding the right professional to guide you through the complexities of probate proceedings is crucial.

The only way to determine whether an attorney can handle your probate case is by discussing your situation and asking the right questions. An attorney who provides accurate and helpful answers, addressing your concerns and confusion, will be the best match for you.

To assist you in this crucial decision-making process, we’ll share the seven essential questions to ask before hiring a probate attorney. The answers to these questions will not only shed light on the attorney’s expertise but also empower you to make an informed decision. 

7 Critical Questions To Ask Your Potential Probate Attorney 

Here are the seven critical questions to ask your potential probate attorney. Remember, these questions are only the minimum and basic criteria. You can add as many questions as you want related to your case. 

1. How Long Has The Attorney Been Practicing Probate Law?

The first question to ask is how long the attorney has been practicing probate law. Keep in mind that not every attorney is an expert in probate law cases, and the attorney you might be choosing could have only a few cases experience, which can be a downside. 

Check how much experience they have with probate cases. If they just started practicing probate law, it might be better to find someone else. Experience matters to make sure your lawyer knows what they’re doing.

2. What Is the Primary Focus Area of Your Practice?

After making sure your attorney has been practicing probate law, find out what the primary focus areas of practice are. Probate law is a big niche that covers many legal areas like estate planning, trust administration, wills, tax planning, power of attorney and so forth.  

It’s best to hire a probate attorney who’s experienced and has been focusing on the same area of your case. For example, if your case is about the disagreement of will, you should prefer an attorney who has been dealing with the same cases. 

3. Have You Successfully Executed The Same Cases In The Past?

Now, the third question should be about whether they’ve successfully executed the cases in the past or not. Knowing whether an attorney has successfully executed wills in the past is crucial for evaluating their competence in handling similar cases.

If the attorney replies yes, you can ask more questions, such as what the results of similar cases were. This way, you can gain insights into their ability to navigate the intricacies of will execution and provide assurance that your case will be in capable hands.

4. How Does The Probate Process Work?

You may have got all the info from the internet about how the probate process works, but it’s best to ask the attorney this question. It’s not to check the attorney’s knowledge but to understand the process better. 

The knowledge you got from the internet is general, but your attorney will tell you everything per your case. Your attorney will break down the probate process into understandable steps, outlining how assets are distributed, debts are settled, and legal matters are resolved. 

5. How Do You Charge For Your Services?

The fifth question is about how the probate attorney will charge for the services for the case. As per California law, Prob Code 10800, the attorney will get a specific percentage according to the gross value of the estate. For example: 

  • 4% on the first $100,000
  • 3% on the next $100,000
  • 2% on the next $800,000
  • 1% on the next $9,000,000
  • 0.5% on the next $15,000,000
  • Above $25,000,000, the court will decide 

However, it’s best to ask questions about the charges. Also, don’t forget to discuss the charges of court fees and other expenses that are not included in the attorney fee. Clarifying these financial aspects ensures transparency and helps you make well-informed decisions. 

6. How Long Does A Typical Probate Case Take?

The question of how long a typical probate case takes is also crucial. While the duration can vary based on factors such as case complexity and court schedules, asking this question provides insight into the attorney’s ability to outline a reasonable timeline.

It will help you get ready for what can happen in the future. You will not have unrealistic expectations that the case will be solved in minimum time. Besides everything, you can plan and navigate the probate process with a clearer understanding. 

7. What Can I Anticipate Throughout The Probate Process?

You can ask your attorney what the results of the probate can be and what you should expect. While no attorney can give an exact answer, they can tell how strong your case is and what the chances of winning are. 

By knowing the details about the case and what can happen, you can prepare yourself for the upcoming challenges. This comprehensive overview allows you to approach each stage with confidence and also shows how confident the attorney is. 


Asking the right questions is your gateway to understanding whether an attorney can handle your probate case effectively. A good attorney always provides accurate and helpful answers that align with your needs and concerns.

If you feel your attorney is failing to answer your question and can’t help you clear your mind, it’s best to consult your case with other attorneys. You can also contact probate lawyers from our firm; we offer a free consultation for our clients. 

Contesting a will is the right way If you doubt the will’s validity or whether it accurately reflects your loved one’s intentions. Yes, it’s not an easy process, but trust us, the process is worth your money and time. 

It’s because the legal authorities will listen to your complaint and decide who’ll get the inheritance and how much. But before you embark on this journey, know that this process isn’t free of cost; instead, it is a lot more expensive than you might think. 

Fortunately, we’re here to guide you not only about how much does it cost to contest a will but also about who can do it and what’s the process of contesting. Let’s go down below to find all the answers related to contesting a will. 

Who Can Contest A Will? Brief Answer 

The first and most important thing you should worry about is whether you’re eligible to contest the will or not. A person who’s not eligible according to the law of America won’t be able to challenge the will in court. Here are the eligible people to contest the will: 

  • Legal Beneficiaries: Anyone mentioned in the will to inherit the assets is called the beneficiary, a person who has every right to contest the will legally. This mostly happens when the beneficiary suspects a big change in the deed. 
  • Blood Relatives: Apart from the beneficiary, individuals who are blood relatives like a spouse, son, daughter, siblings, mother and so forth will be able to contest will. 

When & Why To Challenge The Will? 3 Reasons

Know that doubt about the validity of the will isn’t the only reason to challenge it. You can also challenge will in a few other scenarios, which we’ll discuss below. These points are super valid and set a strong ground for your case. 

  • Tester Credibility: A tester is an individual responsible for creating the will. If you, as a beneficiary, have doubts about the credibility of the tester, you can challenge the deed because of this reason. 
  • Legal Issues: Sometimes, deeds don’t meet the laws of the state or the city where you live. For example, the will might not have enough witness’s signatures, which allows you to file a lawsuit. 
  • Fraudulent Will: If you think the will is fake, like someone tricked the person or faked the signature, or there are different copies of the will going around, you’ve got a good reason to challenge it.

How Much Does It Cost To Contest A Will?

Now you know about the eligibility of contesting a will. It’s time to move towards another question: the overall cost of this process. Remember, the cost we’ll share is an average estimated amount; it can be high or low, depending on your case and lawyer. 

According to our research, you need $5,000 to $10,000 or even more, as per the complexity of your case. This cost is for the entire process and includes attorney, filing fee, document creation, and all other extra expenses. 

  • Attorney Charges: The money you pay to your attorney is a significant part of what this will all cost. How much you’ll spend depends on who you choose to help you and how well-known they are for dealing with cases like this.
  • Filing Fees: After hiring an attorney, you’ve got to pay fees to get your case going in court. The price can be different based on state law, where you live, and what your case is all about.
  • Notices and Papers: You need to make sure everyone who’s part of this legal fight knows about your court case. This means you’ve to send official notices, which also comes with additional costs.
  • Potential Costs of Litigation: If your case ends up in court, there might be more expenses. For example, covering the expenses of witnesses or an expert who’ll give a professional opinion about certain aspects of the case.

Here’s How To Contest A Will? Steps To Follow

Here’s the step-by-step guide to contesting a will. Make sure to read everything from beginning to finish to grasp all important points. After reading this, you’ll be able to know what to do to contest a will. 

1. Gather Evidences 

Gathering evidence is an important point, and for this, you don’t need a detective. Just find out some important documents, and talk to individuals who can be your witnesses in the court. All of this will make your case stronger in front of the judge. 

If you think you don’t have time or such evidence or witnesses, relax; there’s no need to panic. The attorney will guide you in this matter about where you can get witnesses’ and legal documents to win the case. 

2. Hire An Attorney

The next step you must take is to hire a good attorney in your state. This is indeed a tough process, given the abundance of attorneys. However, we can help you out here in finding the right attorney for cases related to deeds. 

We at CPT (California, Probate and Trust) law firm have experienced attorneys. Our attorneys will listen to your problem and proceed with the case further legally. You can call for free consultation about the case or visit our office. 

3. File Petition In Court

You’ve gathered your evidence and secured a lawyer; the next big step is filing a petition in court. Work with your attorney to create a solid case, lay out all the reasons, provide the proof you have and file the petition. 

Ensure the petition goes to the correct court, usually one that handles wills and estates matters in your area. After filing the petition, your case will start, but before this, send notices to everyone involved in the case. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the most expensive part of litigation?

The most expensive part of the litigation is attorney fees in the USA. They charge a minimum of $100 to $10,000 or more, according to the case. Most lawyers charge a per-hour fee starting from $100 to $500 at most. 

How long can you contest a will after death in the USA?

In the USA, you typically have about 120 days from the time a will is admitted for probate to contest it legally. This means that after someone passes away and their will is made official by the court, you have approximately four months to raise objections. 

Can a will be changed after death in the US?

No one can change the will after death in the United States. Doing this counts as fraud and illegal activity. The beneficiary of the will can file a lawsuit if you are found guilty, which may result in serious consequences, including jail and legal penalties. 


To sum up, you need at least $5,000 to $10,000 to contest a will. The process can be more costly than $10,000 with an expensive attorney, so find the one who can take your case for a reasonable fee. 

Besides that, be ready because the case also needs your time along with money. The case may go longer if the other party is also strong, has evidence like you, and doesn’t want to solve the issue outside the court. 

It’s Time to Talk Estate Planning with Your Parents 

We’re all familiar with Millennials’ stereotype as self-absorbed, spoiled children who can’t seem to get their lives in order. But the truth is, Millennials have matured into responsible adults and productive citizens, with many approaching their (gasp!) forties. Consequently, their Baby Boomer parents are aging, too, requiring their Millennial children to engage them in a challenging conversation on a sensitive topic: estate planning.

What’s Involved in Estate Planning?

Are you a millennial? Talk to your parents about estate planning. If the thought of talking to your parents about estate planning sounds about as much fun as going to the dentist for a root canal procedure, let us put your mind at ease. First, understand that estate planning encompasses much more than just wills and inheritance, though we know why that’s the first thing that comes to mind for most people. Yet an estate plan can also designate the person assigned to make healthcare decisions, should your parent(s) become incapacitated and no longer capable of making these decisions themselves. With a detailed estate plan, there is no guesswork: if an emergency occurs with your parent(s), you and your siblings can provide emotional support and assist with their care, rather than deal with the stress of having to make life-or-death choices. What happens in an emergency when no estate plan exists? You, as the child, could face agonizing uncertainty about your parents’ desires, raising the possibility of the courts stepping in and deciding for you (and them). Isn’t it better to broach the topic while your viable, healthy parents can tell you precisely what they want via an estate plan?

Necessary Documents and Information for Estate Planning

While wills are essential for settling an estate after a loved one dies, your parents (and you) should get the following paperwork in order while alive and healthy:

  • Power of Attorney – names a trusted individual to make legal decisions for your parent(s) if they cannot express their wishes themselves.
  • Health Care Directive – names a trusted individual to make healthcare treatment decisions for your parent(s) if they cannot give those directives themselves.
  • Living Will – indicates whether your parent(s) should be kept alive by artificial means if they cannot verbalize their wishes.
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order – directs healthcare providers not to revive your parent(s) should their heartbeat and respiration cease. Their physician prepares this document following a consultation in which they discuss the matter.
  • A Medical Order Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) – specifies to healthcare providers the kinds of life-sustaining treatments they should or should not administer if your parent(s) cannot tell them. A few examples include, “I do not want to be intubated,” or “I do not want a blood transfusion.” They can list multiple life-sustaining treatments on their MOLST, so be sure to discuss all possibilities.

Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and a Living Will can ease the burden of a loved one’s illness by designating a person to handle necessary transactions like paying bills, in addition to making medical decisions. We cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to put this paperwork in place before there’s an issue – particularly if dementia or Alzheimer’s are part of the family medical history.

Once the paperwork is signed and completed, your next step is to ensure that you know where your parents keep their estate plan. It’s a good idea to ask them to document passwords to vital accounts on one primary document and set up bills on autopay, especially if they entrust that information to just one person. Research some digital options for secure data storing, where you can save data like passwords, the process for household bill paying, and financial and legal documentation.

How To Initiate a Conversation About The Sensitive Topic of Estate Planning

Now that you have a general understanding of everything involved in estate planning, it’s time to talk to your parents about it. Keep in mind, as challenging as it is to discuss this topic with a loved one, it pales in comparison to a gut-wrenching scenario of a dire medical emergency with one of your parents, with no clear-cut directive as to how to proceed. Assure your parents that estate planning will alleviate your anxiety and free you up to offer your emotional support in a time of crisis. Framing the subject in this manner will persuade your parents to engage on the issue and take care of the necessary paperwork.

One tactic you might take is to ask them for their advice as a prelude to the conversation. You could say, for example, “Now that Jack and I are married, we want to create our estate plans. How did you two decide who to designate as the power of attorney and health care proxy?” If they respond that they do not have an estate plan, you’ll know where to begin.

Or, you can take the direct approach. Suppose your family has a history of dementia. You could express your concerns about it and your desire to prepare all the legal documents now before anything happens. That way, you can focus on getting them the best care possible instead of agonizing over the legal and financial paperwork. Stress that an estate plan puts them in control because they get to define their wishes and have them upheld, versus you having to guess – or, in a worst-case scenario, the government, via the courts, appointing a stranger to make these vital decisions on their behalf.

My Parents Have Agreed to An Estate Plan: Now What?

Estate planning is a legal specialization. As such, it demands complex skills only an estate planning attorney can offer. That’s why you must hire an attorney who focuses on estate planning, not one who occasionally writes a will for a client. As we mentioned above, a comprehensive estate plan includes a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, Living Will, DNR Order, and a MOLST.

Contact California Probate and Trust, PC for Your Estate Planning Needs

If you’re one of 43 million Americans caring for an aging relative, you know firsthand the physical and emotional pressures that accompany being the sole chauffer, cook, and physical therapist for an ailing person. A caretaker’s life can often revolve around medical appointments and medicine dosages. But what about the caretaker? Who takes care of them? And how does caretaking affect their health?

Currently, medical literature on caretakers shows an interesting divide. On one hand, there are suggestions that caretaking can affect health significantly. For example, a 1999 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that caring for an elderly individual was so “burdensome” to family members that it contributed to an early death. The study concluded that the physical demands of care giving made many caregivers physically vulnerable to health problems. In simple language, people who gave care were often more at risk for death than those that did not provide regular care to a loved one.

However, a more recent study of caregivers by a Boston University epidemiologist, found that while caregivers were more stressed than non-caregivers, their mortality rates were still lower than those of non-care givers. The researchers in this study theorize that caregivers are more physically active than non-caregivers and reap the physical benefits of that activity.

Although researchers continue to study caregivers and debate its risks and benefits, there’s no doubt that caregivers themselves face a number of stresses associated with their care giving duties. More and more organizations have started to offer care giving services to help ease the burden for caregivers. For example, if you’re an AARP member, you can get access to resources for families with aging relatives including a care plan with a registered nurse. If you’re a caregiver, you should also check out the New York Times list of resources for caregivers. Remember, the more you take care of yourself, the better equipped you are for providing care to others.

Bankruptcy for Mature Adults

It’s called your “golden years” but for many seniors and baby boomers, there is no gold and retirement savings are too often insufficient to maintain even basic living standards of retirees. In fact, a recent study by the University of Michigan found that baby boomers are the fastest growing age group filing for bankruptcy. And even for those who have not yet filed for bankruptcy, a lack of retirement savings greatly troubles many who face their final years with fear and uncertainty.

Another study, conducted by Financial Engines revealed that nearly half of all baby boomers fear they will be in the poor house after retirement. Adding insult to injury, this anxiety also discourages many from taking the necessary steps to establish and implement a clear, workable estate plan. So instead, they find themselves with mounting credit card debt, and a shortfall when it comes time to pay the bills.

In fact, one in every four baby boomers have depleted their savings during the recession and nearly half face the prospect of running out of money after they retire. With the depletion of their savings, many seniors are resorting to the use of credit cards to maintain their standard of living. This is further exacerbated by skyrocketing medical costs, and the desire to lend a helping hand to adult children, many of whom are also under financial distress. These circumstances have led to a dramatic increase in the number of senior citizens finding themselves in financial trouble and turning to the bankruptcy courts for relief.

In 2010, seven percent of all bankruptcy filers were over the age of 65. That’s up from just two percent a decade ago. For the 55-and-up age bracket, that number balloons to 22 percent of all bankruptcy filings nationwide.

Whether filing for bankruptcy relief under a Chapter 7 liquidation, or a Chapter 13 reorganization, senior citizens face their own hurdles. Unlike many younger filers, senior citizens tend to have more equity in their homes, and less opportunity to increase their incomes. The lack of well-paying job prospects severely limits older Americans’ ability to re-establish themselves financially following a bankruptcy, especially since their income sources are typically fixed while their expenses continue to increase.

Many senior citizens are hesitant to think about the possibility of requiring long-term health care. While this reluctance is natural, it is vital to know the facts: hundreds of thousands of elderly Californians currently reside in long-term nursing facilities. Many of these people are paying for their custodial healthcare out of pocket. Unfortunately, by the time Medi-Cal steps in, they will be impoverished.

To avoid such a scenario, you must be aware that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care and make proper arrangements in time. Our estate planning attorneys at California Probate and Trust, PC recommend that seniors and their families take five simple steps when Medicare runs out.

1. File a Medicare Appeal

Once Medicare decides to end healthcare coverage for your parent, you will receive an official discharge notice—a NOMNC or Notice of Medicare Non-Coverage. The health care facility administration must deliver this notice no less than two calendar days before Medicare ends your parent’s coverage.

Once you receive the NOMNC, you have the right to a quick appeal. Make sure to include any reasons you believe Medicare should extend your parent’s coverage, such as your conviction (with the support of relevant medical documentation) that their health will deteriorate without continued care.

However, keep in mind that even if you manage to extend Medicare, the program limits days of care per beneficiary. If your parent needs long-term care, you will need to plan accordingly.

2. Take Care of Relevant Legal Documents

At this point, make sure you have:

  1. Your parent’s Advance Medical Directive, and;
  2. A Durable Power of Attorney document that allows you to make crucial medical, financial, and legal decisions for your parent in case they cannot do so themselves.
  3. A Revocable Living Trust. If your parent is in a skilled nursing facility, it’s time to talk about a changing of the guard, and appointing a new trustee to oversee and preserve your parent’s money.

If your parent hasn’t signed a POA yet, now is the time. If your parent loses their mental capacity due to dementia, stroke, or another medical condition, and you don’t have a legally valid POA in place, you will have no choice but to file for guardianship with all the ensuing legal costs and hassle.

Likewise, ensure your parent’s trust, will, estate planning documentation, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and any other essential documents are valid and up to date.

3. Prepare to Apply for Medi-Cal

For most people, paying for long-term health care out of pocket is not an option. Unless your parent has private insurance, Medi-Cal is probably the most realistic possibility of covering nursing home costs.

To help a parent apply for Medi-Cal, you will need to gather records of all their income and assets, including:

  • Gross income documentation
  • Insurance policies
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • IRAs, CDs, and annuities
  • Mortgage documentation or rent contract

Medi-Cal has ways of confirming income and asset statements, and an inaccurate application may result in denied benefits, so provide complete, up-to-date information. Remember to include all other necessary documentation such as your parent’s social security card, driver’s license, and marriage license.

4. Learn About Medi-Cal Requirements and Asset Protection Strategies

To be eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s Medi-Cal program for long term care (skilled nursing facility or the PACE program). Medi-Cal has complex rules regarding income and assets. However, do not fear. In most cases, with proactive planning, it is legal and possible to preserve most or all of the money, investments, and real estate. In some cases, a married couple can also preserve all of the monthly income.

If you call the Medi-Cal office, the Medi-Cal worker is only trained to tell you to spend all of your money and to deny your claim. We know better, and can save nearly everything. We can even avoid the look-back period. Don’t go broke when Medicare runs out. Let us help you save everything.

We recommend preparing for a Medi-Cal application well in advance so your family can preserve their assets; all of their assets. It’s your choice. You can keep your money in the family or you can give it to the government.

5. Consult an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney

Even if your parent hasn’t planned for Medi-Cal and needs immediate help with health care coverage, a knowledgeable asset protection lawyer can suggest several effective legal strategies, such as:

  • Asset protection trusts
  • Caregiver agreements
  • Spousal Support Order

An estate planning attorney can help you comply with current Medi-Cal requirements, especially as California prepares to implement changes to the Medi-Cal asset test.

California Probate and Trust, PC: Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm in Fair Oaks, CA

At California Probate and Trust, PC, we help families & professionals in California plan for long-term care while protecting their assets.

Many of our clients worry that they will have to go broke paying for nursing home care and lose all their hard-earned money. Please know that an estate planning attorney can suggest effective legal methods to protect your assets from Medi-Cal claims.

Our free guide, The 7 Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan, answers many of the common questions about end-of-life planning. Call 916-603-2782, leave your name, mailing address, and phone number, and the guide will be on its way to you shortly.

Click to listen as R. Dustin MacFarlane explains the Durable Power of Attorney and What to Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney on his podcast, Legally Speaking.

Have any questions or concerns? A trust lawyer with California Probate and Trust, PC would be happy to assist. Call (916)-674-2066 or fill out our contact form today for a free consultation.