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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References

Related articles

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 Prepare a Last Will

A valid will lets you control the disposition of your assets after you die; otherwise, state law distributes your property to next of kin. A valid will can name a guardian for your minor children and an executor for your estate. Your circumstances dictate what type of will you need: a simple will that you can do yourself works well for if you have little property or few heirs, but legal help may be appropriate if you have more complex holdings and many heirs.

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.

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