Holographic (handwritten) wills are legal in California when they meet the basic standards required of a valid will. They must be written entirely by the testator (the person whose will it is) and signed by them.
While a holographic will may be valid, it is preferable to have legal guidance when drafting any estate planning documents. Professional attention can help you avoid some of the pitfalls associated with handwritten wills.
Speaking of pitfalls
If you are considering a holographic will, it is vital to understand how to create one that will protect your assets and provide for your heirs. Avoiding those sneaky pitfalls mentioned earlier can do much to strengthen a handwritten will.
One common pitfall is ambiguity. If your holographic will is not clear and specific, it will be hard to follow your wishes. Example: “I leave my pickup truck to my favorite nephew.” You need to include the full names of everyone in your will to prevent confusion.
Another common problem is errors. If a handwritten will contains errors, it could destroy the value of the entire document. Example: “I leave 53% of my business to my husband, 35% to my kids and 15% to my sister.” Unfortunately, the total of these percentages is 103% — a mistake that can cause a lot of hardship.
Writing a will by hand may be easy, but these documents can be picked apart by your family or anyone else named (or not named) in the will. By contrast, a professionally drafted will has a better chance of preserving your wishes.
It’s wise to learn more about California wills and estate planning laws before making your final decision about writing yours.