How To Write Your Own Will In California

March 24, 2008 by Mitchell A. Port

This information is not intended to be a substitute for proper estate planning. Writing your own will may result in unintended consequences, misinterpretation and perhaps litigation. Probate will not be avoided. I have listed many of the steps necessary to write your own will even though I advise against it.

To write a holographic will as a California resident, the following steps should be taken:

1. Use a completely blank sheet of paper (no letterhead, no logo, nothing on it)

2. Write the entire will in your own handwriting

3. State your name and that you are of sound mind and not under any duress to write a will

4. State the county in which you reside

5. State that it is your last will and that it supersedes all prior wills

6. State who you are married to, if you are married, and if not, so state

7. State the names of your children, if any, and if none, so state. If you have children and they are minors, list those people in an order of priority who will be guardians

8. List those people in an order of priority who will be executors

9. State that bond is waived for any executor (and guardian – if you have children) who serves

10. State who is going to inherit what property, for example, “I leave my spouse all of my interest in any property whether real or personal, including but not limited to our home on _________, Drive, my nut company on __________, Drive, my real estate on ____________ Drive, all of my cash and investments, and all the rest of my property wherever located. If my spouse does not survive me, I leave all of my interest in said property in equal shares to my children.”

11. State who else gets something by mentioning their name(s) and what they get. Add that if either the person named is not living at the time of your death or if the property is no longer a part of your estate, then the gift to that person lapses.

12. If applicable, state your intent to disinherit anyone who contests the will. For instance: “Except as otherwise provided in this Will, I have with full knowledge omitted to provide for my children and heirs, or any others who might feel entitled to some portion of my estate. I have carefully considered the needs and abilities of my family and after such consideration have disposed of my estate in the manner provided in this Will. Should any beneficiary named in this Will, or the parent of any beneficiary named in this Will, or any person claiming through a beneficiary named in this Will, or any person claiming to be an heir, directly, indirectly, singly or in conjunction with other persons, attack this Will, or contest any of its provisions, or contest any trust established by me, or seek to impair or invalidate any part or provision of my estate plan, or conspire or cooperate with anyone attempting to do any of the aforesaid, such person's interest (or if such person has no interest, but his or her child has an interest in my estate or any trust established by me, then such child's interest) in my estate is revoked and shall be forfeit and distributed as if such person (or the child of such person) had predeceased me and any generation-skipping transfer taxes caused by reason of such forfeiture shall be charged to and paid from such property without the benefit of the use of any of generation-skipping transfer tax exemption.”

13. Sign and date the document without any witnesses or a notary. Do not let anyone else sign as a witness and do not have the will notarized

This does not avoid probate and should not be used as a substitute for a complete estate plan. Consultation with an estate planning attorney like Mitchell A. Port at 310.559.5259 is strongly advised.