It’s never too early to start looking into drafting a will, and as a resident of California, you have some options in how you want to go about it. However, just one wrong move can have the entire will rendered obsolete. To avoid this, you should know how to write a valid will.

FindLaw has plenty of information on writing wills, including what types of wills are and aren’t valid in the state. So what types of wills are valid in California? Nuncupative (or oral) wills are not recognized. However, holographic wills are.

A holographic will is a handwritten will. In order to be considered valid in California, the entire document needs to be in your handwriting with your signature. It must also show “testamentary intent” – i.e. that what is written within it is what you wish to have happen. This is usually proven through the presence of extrinsic evidence. The unique thing about holographic wills is that they don’t require a witness to be considered valid.

A traditional will, on the other hand, does require up to two witnesses to sign the document. No one can sign the document without the other witnesses or testator present.

Because it is so crucial for you to write a will correctly in order for it to be considered valid, you might want to look into hiring an attorney with experience in the creation of wills. They can help you avoid mistakes and make sure that your will is airtight so your assets are passed on as you wish.