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When Is A Handwritten Will Valid In California?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2022 | Estate Administration, Estate Planning

Handwritten wills, also referred to as holographic wills, are still fairly common. In California, this type of will is valid, whether witnessed or not, provided the signature and the main components are in the handwriting of the person who created it, also known as the testator.

The Importance Of A Date On A Holographic Will

Section 6111 of California’s Probate Code further elaborates that the will must also include a statement indicating the date it was created. If it does not include such a statement, it could be contested on the basis that it is contradicted by another will that was created by the testator that does include a date, or if the testator lacked the capacity to create a will during any time period in which the will may have been created.

Lastly, the law indicates that the holographic will is still valid whether it is entirely handwritten or if it is a commercially printed do-it-yourself will form, as long as it is signed in the creator’s handwriting.

Disputes Over Handwritten Wills

People often create handwritten wills, either because they do not believe their estate is of sufficient size to benefit from a more formal estate plan or as a stopgap to have something in place prior to creating a more formal estate plan. While, as discussed, California law does recognize these wills as valid, they may be more likely to lead to disputes between heirs. Perhaps something important is overlooked in the will, or the aforementioned question of lack of capacity arises. Text may be illegible, making interpretation difficult. Some families may even find themselves fighting over allegations that the handwriting is falsified and not really the handwriting of the deceased.

If you are considering writing a handwritten will or downloading a will form off the internet, or you have a handwritten will established, you may want to consider creating a more formal estate plan to reduce the chances of disputes among your beneficiaries. If you proceed with the handwritten will, make sure you write clearly, date it and store it someplace where it will not be lost.

If you are a relative of someone who left behind a holographic will and you have concerns about its validity or other members of your family are claiming that it is not valid, you may want to work with an experienced estate administration and probate lawyer to ensure your loved one’s final wishes are followed.