Understanding Holographic Wills In California

Most of us don't spend much time thinking about what will happen to our property when we die. Even some multimillionaires, like pop icon Prince, die intestate, that is, without a will.

It doesn't take much work, though, to set out a basic document that expresses where you want your property to go. The simplest and most traditional way to express these desires is to write a will. A court may not enforce a will, though, if it doesn't meet certain legal standards. Most states have specific requirements about what makes a will enforceable.

What Is Holographic Will?

Make a will

A "holographic will" is a will that the testator writes entirely in his or her handwriting. The testator must also sign and date the will. There are certain advantages to writing an entire will by hand. First, no witnesses are necessary as long as the "material provisions of the will are handwritten and it is signed and dated ( California Probate Code Sections 6110-6111). This special exception to the rule for handwritten wills is simple - The idea is that a will written entirely in the handwriting of the deceased person is clearly their writing. In this case, it's not necessary for the witnesses to sign the will, since the

testator's handwriting demonstrates that they wrote it.

Your will does not have to be complicated. It can be short as a one page, as long as it clear and leaves no room for ambiguity. Things to keep in mind these steps:

  1. tart by making a wish list of all your assets, including all your personal and real properties, financial and investment accounts, insurance policies, etc..;
  2. Make a provision for the "Residue" of your estate. The residue of your estate includes all assets that you may have acquired after you wrote the will as well as assets you failed to mention in the will;
  3. Make sure that your handwriting is neat, legible and concise. We all heard the saying "Say what you mean and mean what you say;"
  4. Make sure that each page of your will is numbered, dated and signed; and
  5. Place your original will in a safe place where your immediate family can locate it after your death. All your hard work will be for nothing if no one can find it!

What Are the Problems with A Holographic Will?


A holographic will may seem like a convenient alternative to signing a will in the presence of two witnesses, but there are several possible problems that may arise. A court may invalidate a holographic will that does not state the date on which the testator signed it. This would occur if there is another document that appears to be a will which has a date on it. A court can still enforce the holographic will if there is some evidence that demonstrates that the testator wrote the will after the date of the other document.

Some holographic wills may be illegible if the testator had unclear handwriting. Even if the handwriting is clear, a beneficiary of the will may have to prove that the handwriting of the will is the testator's own. Because holographic wills lack witnesses, a probate court may subject a handwritten will to more exacting scrutiny than other wills.

Another problem with an undated holographic will has to do with testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity means that the person writing the will has the mental health and presence of mind to express their desires regarding what will happen to their property. If there is some question about whether the testator had testamentary capacity, and if it's possible that the holographic will may have been written during a time when the testator lacked testamentary capacity, then a court may not enforce the holographic will. Someone who wishes the will to be valid must prove to the court that the testator wrote the undated holographic will at a time when the testator had testamentary capacity.

Get Legal Help

If you are preparing a will or trust and need expert legal assistance, get in touch with an experienced estate planning attorney at Farhat Law Firm, APC in Corona today. We can help transfer your legacy to your loved ones.