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What is a holographic will?

You may hear stories of people coming forth after a wealthy individual has died claiming to have helped the decedent and in return being promised his or her entire fortune. Often, the only evidence that such people can produce is a handwritten will. Such stories may be easy for you and others in Woodland Hills to dismiss, yet they prompt the question of whether or not a handwritten will is actually valid.

Handwritten wills are known legally as “holographic wills.” Only a handful of states recognize them, with California being one of them. The California Probate Code lists detailed instructions that are to be followed when validating a will. Section 8222 says that the same standard applies to holographic wills. All that is needed is for a witness (either you or, in the case of it being your own will, a family member or friend) confirming that the will was executed according to the law. This can be done by you submitting an affidavit with a picture copy of the holographic will, or attaching one to the original document itself.

If, however, your interest in an estate precludes you from being an available witness to a will, the court may verify a holographic will with the following:

  •          A sample of the decedent’s handwriting (or yours, if it is your will)
  •          A handwriting sample from you or any other of the will’s subscribing witnesses
  •          Either writing in the will itself that bears the signatures of all of the subscribing witnesses, or an affidavit from one with knowledge of the will’s execution

As to the wisdom on relying on a holographic will, you may want to consider the skepticism that such a document might automatically prompt. This could increase the chances of such a will being contested.


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