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

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

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

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

California, unlike other states, doesn't require that the testator's signature be notarized in order for any will to be valid. However, there might be other requirements for whether or not it's considered a valid legal document in California, such as having witnesses present when it is signed. These requirements are dependent on the type of will being created.

Woman sitting on couch using laptop

Requirements Dependent on How the Will Is Created

A will drafted in California—whether it is handwritten, typewritten, prepared by someone else, or created online—does not require notarization. The probate laws, however, do have various requirements depending on how it is created.

While the requirements differ, keep in mind that preparing multiple might cause issues when it comes to determining which one is the most recent and valid for execution. That is why it is important to destroy your first version if you intend on drafting a new one. Below are some additional requirements to adhere to when drafting a will.

Handwritten Wills

In the state of California, a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is valid pursuant to California Probate Code section 6111. This statute requires that the material provisions of the testament, as well as the signature, be in the handwriting of the testator. They don't need to be witnessed because the signature of the testator is sufficient.

While not required, it is important that the document is dated. According to Section 6111, if it isn't dated and its provisions conflict with the ones set forth in another version, or it is established that the testator lacked capacity during drafting it, then it might be found invalid. Further, the statute goes on to state that testamentary intent may be established either in the handwriting of the testator or "as part of a commercially printed form will." For these reasons, the testator should date a handwritten will to avoid potential problems with its validity.

Even a late discovered holographic will is valid in the state of California when it meets the legal requirements.

Typewritten or Prepared Wills

A will prepared by an attorney or typewritten by the testator is valid. However, California Probate Code section 6110 does require that this type is signed. While the testator typically signs the document, Section 6110 allows it to be signed by someone else in the presence of and at the direction of the testator or by a conservator appointed pursuant to a valid court order. When reviewing a typewritten or prepared will, review any court orders issued previously.

For typewritten or prepared documents, at least two witnesses must sign indicating that they witnessed the signature and are aware that the document being signed is the testator's will.

Online Wills

There are several different online forms and programs that can be used to draft a will. In the state of California, a testator can draft one online, with or without the assistance of another party. Thereafter, the testator must print and sign the document in front of at least two people, who also must sign the document attesting to the testator's signature.

Before creating a will, the testator should first determine which type is the most appropriate and then ensure that the probate laws and other requirements are followed to prevent issues with its validity. It's also important to note that the witnesses signing the will must know exactly what they are signing, as they may be brought to testify during probate if it's ever challenged.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

Protect your loved ones.

Start my estate plan