Requirements of Holographic Wills in California (2024)

Last Updated: January 10, 2023 6 min read

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Requirements of Holographic Wills in California

A holographic will isn’t as cool as it sounds. It is actually a handwritten will because in this case holographic means handwritten.

Even though a holographic will is handwritten, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be a legal document that ensures your final wishes are kept. If you follow the requirements of California law you can rest in peace knowing that your family and the courts will be following your will to the letter.

California Holographic Will Requirements

The legal requirements for a handwritten will in California to follow state law are few. With that being said, you can make things easier for everyone by consulting with a lawyer or attorney and creating a more rigid last will. Depending on the type of will it won't cost an exorbitant amount, and you'll get all your bases covered for your personal property, get any inconsistent provisions of another will cleaned up, and more. Here are the general requirements:


Witnesses are not required for a holographic will in California. With that being said, it is a good idea to get a few anyway. The reasoning behind that is every signature on your own will adds validity, and backs you up in court if your will is challenged.

When selecting witnesses, try if possible to have witnesses that are not receiving an inheritance from you. This helps increase the authority of your witness signatures because other potential heirs cannot state that those named heirs made you create the will under duress.

Sound Mind

When you are writing your handwritten will, it needs to be apparent that you have testamentary capacity (sound mind). This means you have the mental capacity to be completely aware of the consequences of the actions of creating this will.

While creating your holographic will, you need to make it clear that the entire will isn’t just notes. It is your desired formal will, so treat it as such. Include the date, and your signature, and get some witnesses.

Your Signature

To avoid fraud, you need to sign your holographic will. This avoids a fake will being created and paraded around as the truth once you pass.

You can literally sign the document anywhere, so make sure to do so. A holographic will doesn’t legally require a notary or a witness, so your signature is imperative.

The final reason to have a signature is just like having a witness sign your will or adding the date. It increases the validity of your will and reduces the possibility of your will being dismissed in court because you missed something easily done. Adding a date also helps dismiss prior wills, but isn't necessary for a valid holographic will.

Your Handwriting

The signature and handwriting used to write your holographic will need to be verified that they are in fact yours. This can either be done by people close to you (family member) who can vouch for the validity, or by hiring a handwriting analysis expert. To make things easier for everyone, try to write as legibly as possible to avoid any possible disputes that it is in fact the testator's handwriting.

What Is a Holographic Will?

What Is a Holographic Will?

A holographic will is a will that has been handwritten and is not typed up. The typical holographic will is what you see in movies where someone is on their deathbed, and is quickly writing a will. They aren’t the best-case scenario for a will but provide much more than no will at all.

If you are reading through this article and don’t have a will yet, stop for a minute. Think about all the important things in your life. Do you have small children, if so who do you want to be their caregivers if you meet an untimely demise? Do you know who you want as your heirs? These are questions to have a date with your partner to discuss if you are in a relationship. If not, schedule some time to figure it out on your own.

Holographic wills are not accepted in all states, but they are accepted in California if you follow all the requirements that we walked through earlier.

Holographic Wills and Probate in California

It is clear that a holographic will is a legally valid will in California if done correctly. If so, there is frequently no other further proof of the validity of a holographic will for probate court. For those that haven’t had to deal with it yet, probate is the legal process that occurs when someone passes away.

Just like most legal documents, a holographic will can also be disputed or contested when it is in probate court. This is a normal process, so having your will as bulletproof as possible can only help. A few common reasons for the authenticity of the will to be disputed are:

  • Reported other wills in existence. Further work will need to be done to determine which will is valid
  • Accusations that the will was not written by the decedent. This is more common than you would think, so a signature and handwriting analysis may need to occur to ensure the will has the handwriting of the testator
  • The mental capacity of the Testator is in question. If the author of the will is not "being of sound mind" then the will is null in void
  • Influence from others on what is written in the will. If the will appears to have undue influence from others then such wills are not a legally binding document

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Make a Will in California for Free?

You can make a holographic (handwritten) in California and it won’t cost you a dime. Make sure it is written in the testator's own handwriting, sign it, and try and get some witnesses to sign it that aren’t named in the will.

Can a Holographic Will be Typed in California?

Yes. You can follow a typed template for a holographic will in California. However, the fill-in-the-blank portions need to be written in the handwriting of the person who the will is for and your signature must be your own as well.

This article is not legal advice or financial advice.

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