What constitutes a properly done will in CA?

Does it have to be official - witnessed and notarized? How about a casual note with final wishes and it's signed at the end.

Sacramento, CA -

Attorney Answers (3)

Janet Lee Brewer

Janet Lee Brewer

Wills and Living Wills Lawyer - Palo Alto, CA
Answered

Under the right circumstances a fairly "casual" note that's signed and dated can be admitted as a will ... as long as it's entirely in your own handwriting. It can be on the back of an envelope if it says "this is my will. Give all my property to (name)." .. I got one like that admitted to probate a number of years ago.

BUT, it would be better if the will were more formal - that way, it's less likely to be challenged. And since there are no "do-overs" after you're gone, if it's important to you that your assets go to the people (or organizations) you want them to go to, then it should be important to you to do it right.

The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The... more
Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Business Attorney - Los Angeles, CA
Answered

If it is (1) dated (2) signed and all in the deceased's own handwriting it is a valid "holographic" will. Your facts seem to indicate it is not dated. If not a valid holographic will, two witnesses are necessary but not notarization.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may... more
James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick

Estate Planning Attorney - Livonia, MI
Answered

If it is not in your own handwriting, it does not qualify as a holographic Will. It would then need to meet all requirements for a formal Will, which your note probably does not. If all of the beneficiaries are in agreement, (Including the ONE beneficiary from the old Will), you might be able to have the note admitted to probate. Otherwise, I think it will be tossed out.

This is one of the MANY MANY examples why it is so critical to see an attorney to get your estate planning done right. Otherwise, whatever you leave behind might totally fail to realize your objectives and your wishes and intent will be thwarted. Estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project!

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and... more

Questions? An attorney can help.

Ask a Question
Free & anonymous.
Find a Lawyer
Free. No commitment.