Handwritten Wills in California

It is true that the state of California (under Probate Code Section 6111) does recognize a handwritten will which is referred to as a holographic will.  The requirements of a holographic will are as follows:

  • The entire will must be entirely written in the testator’s own handwriting – there can be nothing typed or printed).
  • It must also be legible, signed and must be dated.
  • There are no witnesses required for the document (unlike other types of wills.)
  • The testator must show capacity.

A famous case over the estate of the “Painter of Light” artist Thomas Kincade (http://www.thomaskinkade.com/magi/servlet/com.asucon.ebiz.home.web.tk.HomeServlet) actually involved two barely legible handwritten wills that Kincade allegedly wrote just a few months prior to his death.  As the story would have it, Kincade had been estranged from his wife for two years before his passing.  He began seeing another woman shortly after his separation who he let move into his mansion and, who, after his death produced the two handwritten wills that gave her control of the mansion in Monte Sereno, his sizable art collection, and 10 million to start a museum on the property.  The Kinkade family produced a formal will that predated the two handwritten wills and named Nanette Kinkade, his wife as the executor.  His wife alleged that Kinkade lacked capacity when he executed the holographic wills.  California laws states that when a holographic will is dated later than a formal will, that only the holographic will is valid.  The matter was scheduled to be heard in December 2012; however, a settlement was reached.  Nanette Kinkade and her children will share the estate with Kinkade’s girlfriend.