A Will is a terrific device whose purpose is to protect the wishes and property of an individual, long after an individual can no longer do so for them self. That said, not all Wills are created equally. Most people living in California are unaware that there are three kinds of Wills that our state recognizes: Holographic Wills, Statutory Wills, and Attorney Drafted Wills. This article will describe in detail these three types of Wills.
The Holographic Will is rarely used except in cases of emergency, due to the ease in which it can be contested. A Holographic Will does not have to be notarized or witnessed. The Will must be entirely in the author’s handwriting. The document must be legibly handwritten. In addition, if the author types anything into the Holographic Will, it may cancel the entire Will. The intention of the Will must be clear. There can be no question of what the author is leaving and who will receive it. In two words, this kind of Will is “high maintenance”. But, if you find yourself in dire circumstance with no time to spare, and no attorney to consult, it could arguably be better than not having a Will at all.
Statutory Wills are prewritten Wills created by the state legislature, and written into state law; meaning that you have to use the Will exactly as they are drafted and without amendment. If you are a state resident, you may use this Will at no cost by simply filling in the form. As a rule, their inflexibility, and inability to change the language or add clauses makes them a secondary choice. Yet, if you need a very simple, straightforward Will, then a Statutory Will might suit you.
The Will that most people are familiar with, is a will drafted by an Estate Planning Attorney. A “drafted” Will is created to suit individual needs. A properly drafted Will meets California legal standards while allowing for the addition of provisions to fit individual needs. For example, if a person wants to exclude a family member from receiving benefits, name a guardian to raise children in the event of death, establish and fund a Trust for surviving family, choose between burial and cremation, or name their own Executor as opposed to having one appointed by the state, they can. The freedom provided by this kind of Will makes it easy to see why “drafted” Wills are the most popular.
Whether it is drafted or prewritten, make certain you choose a Will that is right for you. When planning a Will, consult with an Estate Planning Attorney. An Estate Planning Attorney will be able to answer any questions and ensure the Will meets your goals. In addition, most attorneys provide a free consultation. A good attorney will use that time to bestow their knowledge and explain all options with clarity.