Creating a valid last will which will stand-up in court does not have to become an expensive undertaking. Most lawyers may charge a client a few hundred dollars for preparing a basic form will. Yet there is an efficient alternative method of preparing your own will that will cost you absolutely nothing. It's called a holographic will and requires only a pen, several sheets of paper and a little time.According to California law, a holographic will is a will signed by the testator (the person whose will it is), with its main and important terms appearing in the testator's handwriting. This type of will need not be witnessed or dated. The testator may sign the will anywhere on the document as long as the signature is made with the intent to authenticate the will. The document must be clearly intended to be a will and not mere instructions to an attorney regarding the drafting of a proposed witnessed will. Although a holographic will need not be dated to be legally binding, the will should have a date on it. If the holographic will is not dated and a second will exists, the courts will deem the holographic will invalid to the extent of the second will unless it is shown that the holographic will was executed after the second will. Further, the law provides that if the testator lacked mental capacity at any time when the holographic will might have been executed, the courts will consider the will invalid unless it is shown that the testator had capacity when the will was executed. With a holographic will, the signature will consequentially follow the document, which is written in the same script as that of the signature. This is why judge usually do not question the validity of a holographic will written by a person of sound mind. Properly dating a holographic will is essential to proving that the testator was of sound mind at the time the will was prepared. The date should appear at the top of the document and the form of the will should proceed as follows: 1. I, the testator, write this holographic will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the transfer of ownership of my things after my death. As of the date of this will, I am of sound mind and am totally capable of determining my own affairs 2. I nominate . . .(son, daughter, wife, etc) as executor of my will and in the alternative I nominate... (son, daughter, wife, etc) as executor of my will. 3. As to my personal possessions, and things, which I will leave behind in the wake of my death, I, here-and-now, declare my intent as to their disposal. 4. As to the money in my bank account, I want it to go to my... (son, daughter, wife, etc) 5. As to my stocks and bonds (if any), I want them to go to my... (son daughter, wife, etc) 6. As to my coin collections, etc (if any) I want them to go to. my... (son, wife, daughter, etc), 7. As to my legal interest in the house in which I have lived for the past, so-many, years, I want it to go to my... (son, daughter, wife) The point in this particular form is to specifically set in order who will receive your personal property, real estate and money after your death. In setting this in order, you must be specific. The form will continue with, 8, 9, 10, etc. for as many specified gifts that are necessary for the will to be complete. The most important aspect of a holographic is its readability, or, rather, its neatness. The testator should carefully take time to ensure that the entire will is completely legible. Writing the holographic will might require several sheets of paper, but that's all right. Use as many sheets as are necessary to set forth exactly where, and to whom, you want your money and possessions to go after your death. Remember, be specific as to your intents and wishes. The will may include your own personal statements as to why you prefer, for example, your daughter to receive your money instead of your wife because I promised my money to my daughter if she graduated college. Finally, seal the will in an envelope and send it to yourself by certified mail. When it is delivered, sign for it and staple the signed receipt to the envelope. Then place the will in a safe deposit box, in a wall safe or in a file cabinet, for safe keeping. This process will ensure the integrity of the holographic will. If the above process is carefully adhered to, you will find that this process to be very simple. The purpose of this column is to provide general information on the law, which is subject to change. It is not legal advice. Consult a lawyer if you have a specific legal problem.
********** Published: June 23, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 10