You know that you need to get your will finished, but getting into an attorney’s office seems like a hassle. Can’t you just write it by hand on your own?
Handwritten or “holographic” wills are legal in California, but only under certain conditions. Essentially, they’re only valid if the following conditions are met:
- The material provisions are all in the testator’s handwriting (not typed or printed from a computer)
- The will is signed by the testator or was signed by another in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s direction
- The testator was of sound mind at the time the will was executed.
While it’s encouraged for a testator to have their signature witnessed, it isn’t a requirement. Nor is it a requirement for a handwritten will to be notarized.
That sounds easy enough, right? Well, the problem with a handwritten will is that it’s often very difficult to prove, in court, that a testator was both of sound mind and not under the undue influence of another when a handwritten will was made. Those allegations can easily throw your estate into litigation.
Another problem with handwritten wills is that they frequently contain vague or contradictory clauses. For example, maybe you want to leave your nephew your “favorite car.” You know exactly which one you mean, and you’re certain your nephew will, too. Your son, however, may have an entirely different idea about what is meant by that term.
Finally, a handwritten will may overlook important issues — like what happens if you’re incapacitated for a while prior to your death. Without the proper designation of powers of attorney, you won’t have any control over who directs your care or manages your finances.
Don’t leave your estate to chance: Talk to an experienced attorney about your goals. Estate planning is too complicated to try to handle on your own.