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Are Holographic Wills Legal in California?


As long as holographic (i.e., handwritten) will meet certain requirements, yes, they can be considered legal and valid in the state of California.

Requirements for Holographic Wills in California

In order for a California court to deem a holographic will as valid, that will must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The will is written by hand by the testator (i.e., the willmaker or the grantor who owns the estate). If the entire will is not handwritten, then the “material” portions have to at least be handwritten.
  • The testator authorizes or signs the will.
  • The date of execution is clearly on the wall. Although a court may accept a holographic will as valid if there is no execution date on it and if there are no other versions of the will available, if there are alternate versions, the lack of an execution date can open up a holographic will to legitimacy challenges.
  • The will is legible.
  • The testator was of a “sound” mind and was not under any duress when (s)he created the will.

Holographic Wills: More Important Info

  • Witnesses – For holographic wills in California, it is NOT necessary for there to be witnesses to authorization of the will. This stands in contrast to non-holographic wills, for which there must be at least two witnesses (who are not beneficiaries) to the grantor’s signature.
  • Ambiguities – Although developing a holographic will may be appealing for various reasons, it can be risky, especially considering the fact that the language used in these wills may not be as specific as it would be had the grantor worked with an experienced estate planning lawyer to devise the will. Such ambiguities can lead to costly will contests later, increasing the chances that your assets will go to court fees, rather than the loved ones whom you wanted to have them.
  • Oversights – This is another possible mistake that can arise with holographic wills, as grantors are far more likely to forget to include certain provisions when they dive in by themselves. Common oversights in holographic wills that can end up costing loved ones big time later include (and are by no means limited to):
  • Failing to name an executor or an alternate executor.
  • Failing to plan for incapacity (i.e., not setting up powers of attorney).
  • Failing to plan for the distribution of all of your assets (in which case state laws would come into play to determine who should get the assets that have not been spoken for).
  • Failing to make plans can limit your loved ones' future probate and/or estate tax obligations.

Contact a Santa Clarita Estate Attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman

When you are ready for experienced help developing, revising, or administering an estate plan, it’s time to contact a trusted Santa Clarita estate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman.

You can contact our firm by calling (818) 892-7093 or by filling out the contact form on this page.

From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, and the greater Los Angeles area.

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