Are Holographic Wills Legal in California?

by Lynnette Holt

    Signatures of witnesses are usually required for a valid will. A valid holographic will does not require witnesses. To prepare a holographic will, the testator writes his wishes in his own handwriting. California Probate Code Section 6111 sets out the law for holographic wills.

    Handwritten

    In order to create a valid holographic will in California, a testator writes the material portions of the will in her own handwriting. Her signature must also be present on the will. A testator is not required to have witnesses to her signature when the will is written and signed in her own handwriting.

    Date of Execution

    For a valid holographic will, the court must be able to determine the date of execution. The testator should include the date of execution when preparing the holographic will. Dates of execution matter with wills because the most recent will is usually the legally valid one.

    Distribution of Assets

    Like all wills, a holographic will distributes the assets of the testator. To be considered valid by a California probate court, the will must be legible. Assets not distributed by the holographic will may be distributed according to state law.

    Testamentary Capacity

    To write a valid holographic will, a testator must have testamentary capacity. The testator must know what his assets are and who his relatives are. An exact understanding of property is not required, but the testator must know generally what he owns and understand that he is determining where his assets will go after his death. Testamentary capacity is required for all wills.