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Are oral wills recognized in California?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Generally speaking, people who draft wills in California are going to type them on a computer and file the paperwork. California law does state that people need to be at least 18 years old to be eligible for this process, and they need to have the mental capacity to do so – they need to be of “sound mind.”

But what if someone wants to use an oral will? For instance, say that a person is in a hospice when they are talking to their descendants, and they tell those adult children how to divide their financial assets. Would this oral conversation count as a valid will in California?

Oral wills are not recognized

No, this would not qualify in California because the state does not recognize oral wills. They must be written down and signed in order to stand in court. 

The vast majority of these documents are written on word processing systems, as noted above. But there are some situations in which holographic or handwritten wills can also be recognized – although they come with special requirements, so they can’t always be used.

Why are oral wills prohibited? They can cause numerous different issues with the estate administration process. For one thing, it’s very hard to prove that they are valid or that the conversation even happened in the first place. 

For instance, perhaps the elderly person was just talking to one of their numerous beneficiaries, and that beneficiary claims they were given special instructions that should count as an oral will. But the other beneficiaries may contest this claim, saying they can’t be sure that the conversation even took place. A written will doesn’t run into the same complications.

As you can see, it’s important to do estate planning properly to reduce the odds of disputes and help things go smoothly. Be sure you know exactly what steps to take.