California's Statutory Requirements for a Last Will & Testament

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

California's Statutory Requirements for a Last Will & Testament

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

The state of California allows several types of wills. However, for one to be valid, it must meet the requirements stated in California law. The basic requirements are more directly about the creator, called the testator. In California, and in most other states, the testator must be 18 years or older, be of sound mind and memory, and not be under undue influence. The testator's signature must also be valid. In addition to these general requirements, each type of will the state allows has specific requirements.

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Statutory Will

One option in California is creating a statutory will. California Probate Code section 6240 states the terms of this document. You can complete the standard statutory will form to identify who inherits your property and assets. The statute also allows the addition of a trust, which must comply with California law.

A copy of the statutory will form must be obtained, the blanks on the form filled in, and then the bottom of the form signed. Two witnesses to the signature must sign the form as well. Additions or deletions to the form may cause invalidation. California law states that including handwritten amendments to a statutory will form invalidates it.

Holographic Will


You can also draft a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will. According to California Probate Code section 6111, this type of document is valid if the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. No witnesses or notarization of the testator's signature is required.

California law says that the provisions of the holographic will are invalid if their terms are inconsistent with another properly executed will, unless the holographic will is established to have been created after the execution of the previous document. Holographic wills must be dated, otherwise it is impossible to discern if it was created after the other will in question. If it's undated, then it's deemed invalid unless it is established that the testator had testamentary capacity when they executed the will.

The statute provides that testamentary intent may be stated in the handwriting of the testator or part of a commercially printed form will.

Attorney-Prepared Will

Additionally, the state of California allows a will to be prepared by an attorney, legal service provider, or typewritten by the testator. Some online services provide forms as well. California law requires prepared wills to be signed, according to California Probate Code section 6110. If it is not signed by the testator, it is valid if signed by someone in the presence of the testator and at his or her direction or by a conservator appointed under section 2580.

State law also requires that the signature is witnessed by two disinterested parties who also sign the will. The witnesses must know that what they are witnessing is the signing of the testator's will. California does not require notarization of any signatures.

When deciding to create a last will and testament, you have a few options to consider. Any of the options are valid as long as all the necessary requirements for the state of California have been followed. With all the proper legal paperwork in place, you'll have a valid will and testament for your beneficiaries.

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