Does a Last Will & Testament Need to Be Notarized in California?

by Teo Spengler Google
    The rules for wills are set out in the California probate code.

    The rules for wills are set out in the California probate code.

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    Because a last will and testament will not go into effect until the maker dies, many jurisdictions require that a notary public verify the signature. California is not among them. The state probate code sets forth the various forms of wills valid in California, and while some mandate witnesses, none require a notarized signature.

    Prepared Will

    If you are 18 years old, you are old enough to sign a last will and testament in California. A common way to establish a will is to visit an attorney. The attorney obtains all needed information from you, including a list of your assets and your beneficiaries, and prepares a will incorporating them. Alternatively, a California resident can sit down and type out her own last testament. Whether you or your lawyer drafts your will, two people must witness your signature. A notary is not required.

    Statutory Will

    California statutes contain a form will termed a "statutory will." The statutory will contains the bare outline of a last will and testament with spaces left blank to flesh out personal information. A person wishing to use the statutory form fills in personal information, including identification, assets and bequests. Like a prepared will, a statutory will requires two witnesses. The codes do not require that any of the signatures be notarized.

    Handwritten Will

    The probate code also authorizes a California resident to write out a will in longhand. A handwritten will, termed a holographic will, must be written, dated and signed by the maker. Although witnesses may sign a holographic will, none are required, nor must the signatures be notarized. A holographic will may be valid even if not dated as long as no ambiguity arises from the lack of date.

    International Will

    A fourth type of will authorized in California is an "international will," useful to those with property in other states or foreign countries. By executing a will under the International Wills Act, a person can make a will in California that will be accepted as valid in most other states and countries. Anyone can make a valid international will, no matter his nationality or residence, as long as he follows the rules set out in the probate code -- which are numerous. An international will must be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses plus a person authorized to act in connection with international wills, defined by the statute to include California attorneys. The authorized person must sign a certificate similar to a notary form -- the exact language of the certificate is set out in the statute -- attesting to the will signing.

    About the Author

    Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer with thousands of published articles in travel, gardening and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.

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