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Seaman & Seaman, A Law Corporation
Addressing Legal Issues For Your California Family’s Past, Present And Future

Can you write your will by hand in California?

by | Jan 11, 2019 | Estate Planning

If you have an elderly relative who is a California resident, you may worry that their handwritten will might not hold up in court. The good news is that our state recognizes the validity of holographic — handwritten — wills.

But you may want to ask a Gold River estate planning attorney to review the document to make sure that it does indeed conform to all stipulations of California law.

For instance, for the will to be valid, it must have been written entirely by the individual and then signed and dated. While dating it is not necessarily required, should the testator have previously drafted a dated will, under the law, that will supersedes an undated will.

It is not necessary to authenticate a holographic will by recording it. Neither is it necessary to have a notary public certify the testator’s signature. As long as the will is entirely in the testator’s handwriting and signed, it will stand up in court to a challenge.

One problem with holographic wills is that the testator is not clear enough with their intentions. Will interpretations are based on legal language and not common parlance. In some cases, using “should” in place of “may” can impose far stricter terms, and testators’ language must be very specific.

Often, a revocable trust is a far better estate-planning tool than a holographic will could ever be, as it allows heirs to avoid probate costs and waiting.

If you have an elderly relative who has not carried out their estate-planning tasks, it can be a kindness to help them fill out a living will and medical proxy, as well as the other documents they lack.