Most Californians imagine wills to be formal legal documents full of jargon and clauses that are typed on fancy paper and signed by serious witnesses. However, not all wills fall into this category. In California and other states throughout the nation, holographic wills are recognized as alternative testamentary documents to those that follow the formal requirements of will making.
A holographic will is one that is written out by hand by the will creator. It must be signed by the creator, and when it is being evaluated for authenticity the handwriting of the will and the signature must match that of the person who created it.
A holographic will does not have to be witnessed to be valid. This allows individuals to put their testamentary intentions down on paper and have them honored even if they do not have the ability to fulfill the more extensive requirements of a formal will. It allows individuals in remote locations or those without access to technology to create legally enforceable documents on their own.
The intentions of the will maker must be stated in their will and those intentions should be supported by extrinsic evidence. That is to say, there must be outside support to show that the words the will maker put down in their testamentary document are in fact reflective of their testamentary intent.
Holographic wills are legally valid in California as long as they conform to the special requirements of their execution. Formal wills are an excellent option for individuals who have the time to create them; with all inquiries about the validity of a will, readers are encouraged to discuss their concerns with estate planning attorneys in their jurisdictions.