People around the world, regardless of their age, have grown increasingly reliant on their personal laptops, smartphones, and tablets for a variety of activities—both business and personal. And as our dependence grows, state laws have been changing as well, to fit the new lifestyles these devices encompass. In California, estate planning attorneys are now talking about how best to bridge the gap between technology and legal issues such as wills and beneficiaries.
According to existing California law, a typical will is constructed with the help of an estate planning lawyer, and signed by the testator in front of witnesses.
Without a will, a person’s estate will be left to his or her spouse, children, or closest relatives, in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws. If the state cannot find any relatives to whom they can bequeath the person’s estate, the property will be given to the state. But those who do not have a will drawn up may find themselves in a life-threatening situation, and may have to resort to a holographic will to divvy up their estate. These types of wills have to meet a few specific conditions before California estate planning lawyers will consider them valid.
The term “holographic will” has typically been used to refer to any completely handwritten will that is signed by the owner. Holographic wills differ from normal wills in that they are sometimes not witnessed, and must be tested against other criteria in order to be probated. Attorneys will often employ handwriting experts to test samples and determine the validity of the written document. The will’s author, or testator, must have demonstrated intellectual capacity to write the will as well, although this is usually not contested unless evidence suggests otherwise. These handwritten wills are usually drawn up in times of crisis or fear of imminent death. Some states that do not usually recognize a holographic will as valid will accept those drawn up by soldiers or other military members overseas.
In California, a holographic will is considered valid without a witness, as long as it is entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. It does not need to include the date, but it is recommended. At this point, California Probate Code Section 6110.c2 does not extend to wills typed on phones, or saved to a computer, even if they are signed and scanned into the device’s hard drive. However, the case in Australia has raised the question, and as pen and paper become a little more obsolete in our technology-driven world, estate planning lawyers in California may need to prepare for changes to legislature, or at least further investigation into the validity of such documents.
At the Evans Law Firm, our California estate planning lawyers help clients in the San Francisco bay area prepare their wills and other legal documents that they will need in order to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled after they pass on. Contact an Evans Law estate planning lawyer at 415-441-8669 or www.evanslaw.com for a consultation today.