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What does it take to probate a holographic will?

Many people know that creating a will often involves several steps, including taking an inventory of one's assets and clearly documenting one's wishes. And then, they must go through the process of ensuring their will is valid by finding fit witnesses to sign the will and attest that the individual was of sound mind when they created and signed their will. 

However, in California, this is not the only option that individuals have to establish a will. California law accepts holographic wills as a valid will. However, families should be aware that they might run into some obstacles if their loved one has a holographic will.

First, what is a holographic will?

According to California state law, a holographic will is a will that:

  1. Does not necessarily need witnesses
  2. Is handwritten by the creator of the will
  3. Is dated by the creator, who had the intention of making a will

Essentially, a holographic will is an alternative option for creating a will that does not involve the usual extensive estate planning process.

A holographic will could create potential challenges in probate

Holographic wills are legal and valid alternative wills. And, when done right, they are just as effective in protecting a loved one's wishes and estate as well as providing for their family. 

The process of administering a holographic will is essentially the same as any other will, including filing with the correct probate court to validate the will and distribute the assets.

However, families can often run into issues during the process of validating the will and administering the estate. These issues often include, but are not limited to:

  • Holographic wills might not cover potential probate issues or correctly establish beneficiaries, especially if they are made without an estate planning lawyer's counsel.
  • Will contests might be more common, especially if there is no way to confirm the creator of the will was of sound mind at the time they made it.
  • Sometimes, even messy handwriting or grammatical errors in the holographic will can cause significant problems in probate.
  • And if the holographic will was meant to replace another legally valid will, it might not be valid.

All of this is not to say that holographic wills are not a valid estate planning option. However, individuals must take great care when creating these wills to ensure their loved ones do not run into complex legal issues after they are gone.

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