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.


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.

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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.

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What Makes a Will Legal in California?

California state laws contain specific rules for what makes a will legal in the state. California's will laws are laid out in the California Probate Code. Like most states, California requires a will to be signed by the testator, or person who made the will, as well as by two witnesses.

Is a Notary Needed for a Will to Be Legal?

The requirements of a valid will are determined by state law. Usually a will is subject to the laws of the state in which it's executed, and most other states will also recognize the will's validity, with some limitations, if it would have been valid where created. Generally, a will needs to be witnessed, but not necessarily notarized.

Are Handwritten Wills Legal in Louisiana If Not Notarized?

Under Louisiana law, an olographic will is one written, signed and dated entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or person making the will, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. A handwritten or olographic will is generally considered valid in Louisiana as long as the entire will is in the testator's own handwriting, even if the will is not notarized, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1574 and 1575.

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