A will written in a foreign language can be admitted to probate in California. Certain rules and procedures must be followed.
What Happens When A California Decedent Dies With A Will Written In A Foreign Language?
Pursuant to California Probate Code § 8002(b)(2), a person seeking probate of a foreign language will must attach an English translation of the will to the petition. Section 8002(b)(2) states:
If the will is in a foreign language, the petitioner shall attach an English language translation. On admission of the will to probate, the court shall certify to a correct translation into English, and the certified translation shall be filed with the will.
Who Can Translate A Foreign Will?
The translator of the will must be a person proficient in English and the language in which the foreign will is written.
Pursuant to California Rules of Court Rule 3.1110(g), the English translation of the will must be certified by a qualified interpreter. A Certification of Translation of Foreign Will is a form that must be attached to the foreign will upon filing.
What If The Foreign Language Will Was Already Admitted In Another Jurisdiction?
If the decedent was a non-resident of California, but died owning property in California, an ancillary probate might be required.
If the foreign language will has already been admitted to probate in another jurisdiction, an authenticated copy of the will may be admitted in California in an ancillary probate. The foreign language will may be admitted if the copy is “attested or certified as a correct copy of the writing or entry by a public employee, or a deputy of a public employee, having the legal custody of the writing.” California Probate Code §§ 12520-12524.
The authenticated copy of the foreign language will is deposited independently of the probate petition, and a copy is filed with the petition for probate as an attachment. An authenticated copy of the Order admitting the foreign language will in the other jurisdiction must also be filed with the petition for probate in California.
Pursuant to California Probate Code § 12523(a), the California probate court may refuse to admit the will even though it was admitted in another jurisdiction:
[W]here the order admitting the will was made under a judicial system that does not provide impartial tribunals or procedures compatible with the requirements of due process of law.
We have written about some of the hurdles with authenticating foreign documents under California law here.