While different ideas may come to mind when you hear the term “holographic will,” it simply refers to a will that has been handwritten as opposed to being typed out. They are most commonly drafted in situations in which an individual knows that they’re nearing death, and they’re not surrounded by anyone else to help type or witness the document being written. Such wills are valid in California under select circumstances.

In order to be considered valid in California, section 6111 of the California probate code requires that a holographic will to meet four different criteria.

First, it must be clear that the individual drafting the document intended for it to actually serve as their will. There must also be no question that the testator, or person writing it, had testamentary capacity, or was of sound mind, when they drafted the document.

The handwriting on the document must be verified as the drafter’s. While it’s okay for them to use a pre-written form where they simply fill in the blanks, the answers written in those spaces should be in the testator’s own handwriting. The signature placed on the document must be verified as belonging to the person drafting the will.

Unlike typewritten wills, California state law doesn’t require for a holographic will to be dated in order to be considered valid. By including a date on it, though, it can help a judge determine which one is the more recent of two documents, especially if there’s more than one will that is located.

Although it’s not necessary for you to have two witnesses to the drafting of a holographic will, it can be helpful to have them. If the will happens to be contested, these individuals can testify that this document was indeed written by you and that you were of sound mind when you drafted it.

Two of the most common reasons that holographic wills are contested is because no one is able to guarantee that the testator was of sound mind and not under duress when drafting it. If you believe that your loved one was under undue influence when drafting their will, then a Lafayette general estate litigation attorney can provide you with a thorough, informed analysis of your legal options in your case.