There is an interesting provision in the California probate code that is the remains of a bygone era. A holographic will or often called a ‘battlefield will’ is a legally binding document entirely in your own handwriting – no witnesses, no notaries! This type of Will is commonly used as a stop-gap or the best you can do under the circumstances type of will. If you’re shot and dying on a battlefield, you can write down who should inherit your estate, and a California court will honor that! Sometimes, people who aren’t ready or able to pay for an attorney-drafted will or estate plan will rely on this to have something in place.
Here is the California probate code section authorizing holographic wills:
CHAPTER 2. Execution of Wills [6110 – 6113] ( Chapter 2 enacted by Stats. 1990, Ch. 79. )
Probate Code Section 6111:
(a) A will that does not comply with Section 6110 is valid as a holographic will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.
Here is a sample you can take a look at – note that this needs to be customized and all of this in someone’s own handwriting.
HUGE LEGAL DISCLAIMER – USE AT YOUR OWN RISK – NO REPRESENTATION IS MADE THAT THIS WILL BE VALID, OR WORK AS YOU INTEND IT TO. THIS IS NOT INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE…THIS IS JUST A HISTORY LESSON AND AN INTERESTING TIDBIT FOUND IN CALIFORNIA LAW
I, _______[NAME]__________, a resident of _______________County , California, revoke any prior Wills and codicils made by me and declare this to be my Will.
I am married to _____________________. Or I am single.
I have [two] children. Their names are:
__________________________, born on __________________ and
__________________________, born on ___________________.
DISTRIBUTION OF MY PROPERTY
If I leave a written memorandum giving any of my assets to specifically named individuals then the most recently dated version of such a writing shall control. I give the balance of my estate, after expenses and taxes are paid under this Will, to:
____[my spouse]____. If I am unmarried at the time of my death, I leave all of my assets equally to: _____[my children]_____ in the care of the guardian named in this Will until each of my children reach age ______ or until the guardian, in their sole discretion, decides they are ready and able to receive any inheritance.
DESIGNATION AND SUCCESSION OF FIDUCIARIES
Section 3.01 Executor
Section 3.02 Guardian
I nominate _____________________ as guardian of each child of mine who needs a guardian. If _________________________ is unwilling or unable to act I appoint the following, in the order named:
Section 4.01 Adopted and Afterborn Persons
A legally adopted person in any generation and that person’s descendants, including adopted descendants, have the same rights and will be treated in the same manner under this Will as natural children of the adopting parent if the person is legally adopted and lived with the adopting parent before turning 18 years old. If an adoption was legal in the jurisdiction it occurred in at that time, then the adoption is considered legal.
A fetus in utero that is later born alive will be considered a person in being during the period of gestation.
Section 4.02 Burial Instructions
I wish that my remains be ____[Buried / Cremated]_____ according to any known instructions left by me, whether left in writing or expressed orally to any family member. If I have failed to leave instructions regarding the burial of my remains, I wish that my remains be handled as my Executor sees fit.
Section 4.03 Contest Provision
If any person directly or indirectly attempts to oppose the validity of my Will or my revocable living trust, including any amendments to my trust, or commences, continues, or prosecutes any legal proceedings to set my Will or revocable living trust aside, then that person will forfeit his or her share, will cease to have any right or interest in my property, and will be considered to have predeceased me for the purposes of my Will.
I, _________[NAME]____________, sign my name to this instrument on _________[DATE]_______________, and do declare that I sign and execute this instrument as my will, that I sign it willingly, that I execute it as my free and voluntary act for the purposes therein expressed, and that I am eighteen years of age or older, of sound mind, and under no constraint or undue influence. I ask the persons who sign below to be my witnesses.
HUGE LEGAL DISCLAIMER – USE AT YOUR OWN RISK – NOT INTENDED TO BE LEGAL ADVICE…THIS IS JUST A HISTORY LESSON AND AN INTERESTING TIDBIT FOUND IN CALIFORNIA LAW