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What is a holographic will?

A holographic will is not legal in most states, but California does allow them.  They are informal wills in which the material terms must be all done in the testator’s own handwriting, and must be signed by the testator.  This means either the entire document is in the testator’s handwriting or most fill-in-the-blank style forms will constitute a holographic will. No witnesses are required for a holographic will.  The Robert L. Shepard Professional Law Corporation does not recommend the use of a holographic will.  It is not that they are legally ineffective, but under California Probate Code §6111, there are a few legally significant differences between a holographic will versus one that was formally attested to.

For example, if a holographic will does not contain a statement as to the date of its execution and this results in doubt as to whether its provisions or the inconsistent provisions of another will are controlling, then the holographic will is the one that is held invalid unless the time of its execution is established to be after the date of execution of the other will.  Also, if it is established that the testator lacked testamentary capacity at any time during which the will might have been executed, the will is invalid unless it is established that it was executed at a time when the testator had testamentary capacity.  Any statement of testamentary intent contained in a holographic will may be set forth either in the testator's own handwriting or as part of a commercially printed from will.  The point is, holographic wills are viewed with suspicion by the court, so you are better off not using one unless you simply have no choice.

Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning