Can I Leave Behind a Handwritten Will?

Handwritten wills are not as common as they once were, but they are still executed successfully. We are often alerted to things we knew about but had forgotten via the news and current events. A former Bond Girl, Tanya Roberts, died recently and left her estate to her common-law partner and her pets. Her estate was valued at over $3 million. This story would likely have not been as newsworthy had Ms. Roberts’ handwritten will been ordinary, but she completely disinherited her family in her holographic last testament. Until the point where Ms. Roberts’ disinherited her family, nothing in this story sounded odd or particularly problematic.

The fact she cut her family out of her estate and left everything to her common-law partner and pets made the fact her will was handwritten more suspect or at the very least interesting. Upon Ms. Roberts’ death, her partner filed the document with the court in Los Angeles to record its contents. Ms. Roberts stared in the Bond Series film, “A View to a Kill.” She left behind a sister and other close family members. Once her death was publicized, there were questions about the validity of her will. Still, Ms. Roberts had the foresight to have the holographic will verified after she penned it.

Validity of Holographic Wills Under California Law

In California, holographic wills are only legal when validated. To be validated, they must meet specific qualifying standards. The first stipulation is that the document must be legible, which can be a problem with handwritten and signed legal documents. Additional requirements require proof the handwritten last testament was intended to serve as a will and that the testator, the deceased, had the mental capacity to execute a legal document.

According to California Probate Code §6111:

CHAPTER 2. Execution of Wills [6110 – 6113] (Chapter 2 enacted by Stats. 1990, Ch. 79.) 6111.

  1. A will that does not comply with Section 6110 is valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.

(b) If a holographic will does not contain a statement as to the date of its execution and:

  1. If the omission results in doubt as to whether its provisions or the inconsistent provisions of another will are controlling, the holographic will is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency unless the time of its execution is established to be after the date of execution of the other will.
  2. 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.

(c) 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 form will.

(Amended by Stats. 1990, Ch. 710, Sec. 13. Operative July 1, 1991, by Sec. 48 of Ch. 710.)

Helping Families Make Their Wishes Known

At Cianci Law, PC, our clients have the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have an estate plan in place that clearly outlines their wishes for the future. We provide services to residents across the Greater Sacramento area. While you can certainly execute a holographic will, why take that chance?
Call us today at (916) 797-1575 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form to make an appointment with one of our estate planning lawyers.

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