How to Make a Legal Will in California

By Teo Spengler

If you are a California resident who is 18 years or older, you can make a valid will without a great expenditure of time or money. Those with simple holdings can write a will themselves, dispensing with attorneys, notaries and even witnesses. The California Probate Code specifically approves a handwritten will -- termed a holographic will -- for state residents. While a holographic will is not for everybody -- more complicated estates might benefit from legal advice and tax-planning assistance -- a simple handwritten will remains a valid, viable option.

Step 1

Determine what property you possess and whom you wish to inherit that property when you die. Include all your separate property -- real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, personal articles -- and your share of the marital property, if any.

Step 2

Write by hand on a clean sheet of paper your name and address, followed by a statement of your intention to set out in the written document the division of property at your death.

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Step 3

List the property that you currently have and identify the persons you wish to inherit each piece. Describe the beneficiaries by name, address, phone number, or in any other way that best identifies them. Include the name of the person who will inherit any property you have forgotten to list.

Step 4

Write a final paragraph specifying whom you wish to be executor of your will. Select an alternative executor in case the first-named executor cannot or will not serve.

Step 5

Sign and date the will. Store it in a safe place, such as a personal safe or a safety deposit box.

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How to Address the Executor of an Estate in a Letter

References

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How do I Create a Valid Will?

Will requirements are neither tricky nor confusing. If you follow the procedures mandated in your state of residence, you can create a valid will. Lawyers term wills "creatures of statute" because will requirements depend on state law. Absent a valid will, your property will pass according to intestate rules upon your death, generally to children and spouse or, in their absence, to siblings and parents. Your valid not only selects estate heirs but signals your choice for guardian of minor children as well as will executor.

How to Make Your Own Legal Will

It is not that hard to cook up a legal will. Take one testator, over the age of 18 and of sound mind. Add a good dose of testamentary intent, a variety of assets and one or more heirs, according to taste. Finish off with a couple of disinterested witnesses, signatures and dates. Let set at room temperature for as long as possible before serving. This recipe is likely to be please everywhere, but allow for minor adjustments among states.

How to Execute a Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is a document used to distribute the property after the property owner dies. The person who creates the will, known as the testator, must not only clearly state his intended distribution of property, he must also execute the will in legally valid form. Although exact procedures vary from state to state, common features are found in every state. Check the law of your state for exact procedures and have an attorney look over your will before you sign it.

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