California recognizes three main types of wills. While some may appear quicker, simpler or cheaper than others, they may not exactly accomplish your goals, protect your interests or protect your estate.
Will contests can delay your estate’s distribution, waste your estate’s funds in defending against the challenge, and create animosity between family members or beneficiaries.
Passing on your estate is not the place to take shortcuts
The three main types of will you can choose from are:
- A statutory will: This is a one-size-fits-all will that you download from the internet, print and complete. If you have ever bought a one-size-fits-all piece of clothing, you will understand that this type of will is going to have serious limitations. It also requires you to figure out how to complete it correctly, which is not always a given, and it must comply with all of the statutory, or legal, requirements for a valid will — including the proper witnesses.
- A holographic will: This is the term for a handwritten will that you can make without anyone else needing to be present. While it is quick and free to create, it lacks the credibility of a witnessed will. For a probate court to admit it, they will require someone who knows you to testify that the handwriting is yours. These are also easily prone to errors that can lead to fights over your estate.
- An attorney-drafted will: This is a customized and “attested” will that an attorney drafts for you to sign, and you sign in front of two unrelated witnesses. You can design it to be sure that it covers what you need. As long as it has the correct signatures, the probate court will admit it. This is the type of will that is most customizable, least likely to be challenged and comprehensive will you can have.
A statutory will and holographic will are more likely to be contested than an attorney-drafted will. They are amateur versions of something that is best done with professional help.