California Wills

You can make a will three different ways in California:

A will which is prepared by an attorney. An estate planning lawyer can make sure that your will satisfies California law. The lawyer can make suggestions and help you understand the many ways that assets can be transferred to or for the benefit of your beneficiaries. A lawyer can also help you develop a complete estate plan and offer alternative plans that may save taxes. This kind of planning can be extremely helpful and economical in the long run. Your lawyer will either personally supervise the signing of your will or will give you detailed instructions on the rules for its execution by you and two witnesses (who are not beneficiaries of your estate).

California law provides a will form which you can “fill-in-the-blanks”. This is for small estates. If you do not understand the form or if you are making any provisions that are complicated or unusual, you should ask an attorney for advice.

A holographic or handwritten will. A handwritten will does not have to be notarized or witnessed. This will must be completely in your own handwriting. Your handwriting has to be legible, and the will must clearly state what you are leaving and to whom. However, any typed material in a handwritten will may invalidate the will. (A typed will must be signed by two witnesses.) You must date and sign the will. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure your will satisfies California law and does not provide for things you do not intend.

Whichever one of the three different kinds of wills you use, the will should be yours alone and not a joint will with your spouse, registered domestic partner or anyone else.

Also, it is important to distinguish between your will and a “living will”. The term “living will” used to be used in California to describe a legal document that states you do not want life-sustaining treatment if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Now in California, advance health care directives and durable powers of attorney for health care decisions are used for that same purpose.

This does not avoid death and taxes, 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.