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In California, you can make a will in one of three ways:

A statutory will. California law provides for a will which simply “fills-in-the-blanks” and is used a lot by people with small estates. If you are making any provisions which are complicated or unusual or if there is anything you do not understand, you should ask a qualified attorney for advice.

A will prepared by a California lawyer. The California attorney can offer suggestions and help you understand the many ways that property can be transferred to or for the benefit of your beneficiaries. A qualified estate planning lawyer can also make sure that your will conforms with California law. When you and I meet to discuss your estate plan, I can also help you develop alternative plans which may save some death taxes. No matter what kind of will you use, the will should be solely your will and not a joint will with your spouse or any other person.

Also, use the correct terms: your “will” is not a “living will”. The term living will is used in many states to describe a legal document stating that you do not want life-sustaining treatment if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

A holographic or handwritten will. A handwritten will does not have to be notarized or witnessed. This will must be completely in your own handwriting. You must date and sign the will. Your handwriting has to be legible, and the will must clearly state what you are leaving and to whom. However, any typed material in a handwritten will may invalidate the will and if you use a typed will, it must be signed by two witnesses.

It is a good idea to consult with a qualified lawyer to make sure your will conforms with California law and does not have any unintended consequences.

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