Earlier this month, a Michigan jury considered whether handwriting in a spiral notebook found under a couch cushion at singer Aretha Franklin’s home constituted her valid last will. Franklin had written and signed the four-page document, and dated it “3/31/14,” but it was not signed by any witness. A six-person jury deemed the 2014 will
Traditionally, the creation of a valid will, in California and elsewhere, required strict adherence to certain formalities. Estate law has been tepidly moving away from requiring compliance with those formalities, with a goal of prioritizing the intent of the person creating the will (the “Testator”). Nine states have gone so far as to enact laws…
What a difference a few weeks make! A month ago, the COVID-19 virus was a distant threat. Over the last few weeks, California courts and law offices have closed, leaving families at home and uncertainty as to when “normal” will return.
Colleagues share that COVID-19 has led to a flurry of calls from clients who want to push forward to complete estate plans that they had left unfinished. Folks who never had estate plans also are seeking to get them done.
California’s estate planning formalities, however, create challenges in our pandemic situation.
Although much wealth passes today through trusts and beneficiary designations, we occasionally handle California probate disputes that turn on the validity of wills, sometimes involving high value estates.
The standard practice in California estate planning is for wills to be typewritten and prepared by attorneys, but those steps are not necessary. A holographic, i.e., handwritten, will can have just the same effect.