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Holographic Wills in California

Holographic wills should really be called handwritten wills since that’s what they are (and in fact, holograph does mean handwritten). But just because it’s handwritten doesn’t take away from the fact that this is your will. It’s what your family and the courts will use to follow through on your last wishes. So, you’ve got to make sure it’s legally valid. 

Let’s take a look at how to make a valid holographic will in California.

What Is a Holographic Will?

Like we said in the intro, a holographic will is just a will that’s been handwritten instead of typed out. Holographic wills are usually created when someone knows they’re nearing death and there’s no one around to help type one up or to be a witness.

Let’s take a time out here and point out that this is not the ideal situation for making a will. True, a handwritten will you make in your last days is better than no will at all. But it’s much better to take care of your will long before that. You need time to really think through important questions, like: Who will take care of your kids if they’re young? Who will inherit the stuff you own? If you’re married, you definitely need to talk those things through with your spouse. Do yourself and your family a favor and go ahead and get your will done now.

OK—back to holographic wills in California. Though not all states accept holographic wills, California does consider them valid—but only under certain circumstances.

If you’re interested in more information about how they work (or don’t work) in all 50 states, check out our complete guide to holographic wills.

California Holographic Will Requirements

So, what exactly makes a handwritten will legit in California? Here’s what you need to know.

Sound Mind

First, it needs to be clear that you’re of sound mind. To be of sound mind means you’re fully aware of the consequences of what you’re doing.

You need to make it obvious that you intend for the holographic will to be your formal will, and not just some random notes you jotted down as you thought about writing a more formal will.

Your Handwriting

Next, your handwriting and signature need to be verified as your own. This can be done by the people who are familiar with your handwriting, or if there’s any doubt, a handwriting analysis expert can be hired. To avoid any dispute, write everything as legibly as possible.

Your Signature

There’s some wiggle room here—you can sign the will anywhere on the document, but make sure you do sign it. Since holographic wills don’t need to be notarized or witnessed, it’s super important to include your signature if you want to avoid fraud.

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While witnesses aren’t legally required in California for a holographic will to be valid, get one or two, if possible. Witness signatures add an extra layer of authority, especially if you think the will might be challenged. But a word of advice: It’s best not to choose a family member or someone you’re naming in your will to be a witness. Other potential heirs can use that to contest the will by saying that person put pressure on you to include them in your will.

Just like having a witness, you don’t legally need to date your will either, but it’s smart to include one, especially if you already have a will, and you want this one to replace it. In other words, don’t give the courts an easy reason to dismiss the holographic will by not including a date or witness.

Holographic Wills and Probate in California

California law makes it clear what’s considered a valid holographic will. If the will is made to follow California law, there’s technically no need for further proof of validity in California probate court. (Probate is the legal process that happens after someone dies.)


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Heads up, though—there are other factors at play here. Even if you follow the legislative code exactly, California holographic wills aren’t bulletproof. Here are the most common reasons they’re disputed in probate court:

  • Suspicion that someone else wrote the will
  • Pressure from another party to write the will in a specific way
  • Doubt about the mental capacity of the testator (aka the person who wrote the will)
  • Possible existence of another will

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Holographic Wills vs. Attorney-Built Templates

As we mentioned, a holographic will is valid in California, but there’s that ever-lurking threat that it will be challenged in probate court. Any number of things can raise suspicion.

Attorney-built templates, on the other hand, guarantee that your loved ones won’t have to endure lengthy probate court proceedings after you’re gone.

Plus, will templates can be completed entirely online. All you have to do is choose the template sections for your situation, fill in your personal information, and feel safe knowing your will is legally valid in California.

Protect Your Loved Ones

To avoid having your will contested (and causing additional stress after you’re gone), we recommend creating your California-specific and legally binding last will and testament with RamseyTrusted provider Mama Bear Legal Forms.

Just like holographic wills, attorney-built will templates from Mama Bear Legal Forms are fast and easy to complete.

Get started today!

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  • Last Will & Testament
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  • Finance Power of Attorney
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Complete Last Will & Testament Package for Married Couples


  • Two Last Will & Testaments
  • Two Health Powers of Attorney
  • Two Finance Powers of Attorney
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