Because a last will and testament will not go into effect until the maker dies, many jurisdictions require that a notary public verify the signature. California is not among them. The state probate code sets forth the various forms of wills valid in California, and while some mandate witnesses, none require a notarized signature.
If you are 18 years old, you are old enough to sign a last will and testament in California. A common way to establish a will is to visit an attorney. The attorney obtains all needed information from you, including a list of your assets and your beneficiaries, and prepares a will incorporating them. Alternatively, a California resident can sit down and type out her own last testament. Whether you or your lawyer drafts your will, two people must witness your signature. A notary is not required.
California statutes contain a form will termed a "statutory will." The statutory will contains the bare outline of a last will and testament with spaces left blank to flesh out personal information. A person wishing to use the statutory form fills in personal information, including identification, assets and bequests. Like a prepared will, a statutory will requires two witnesses. The codes do not require that any of the signatures be notarized.
The probate code also authorizes a California resident to write out a will in longhand. A handwritten will, termed a holographic will, must be written, dated and signed by the maker. Although witnesses may sign a holographic will, none are required, nor must the signatures be notarized. A holographic will may be valid even if not dated as long as no ambiguity arises from the lack of date.
Read More: Handwritten Last Will & Testaments
A fourth type of will authorized in California is an "international will," useful to those with property in other states or foreign countries. By executing a will under the International Wills Act, a person can make a will in California that will be accepted as valid in most other states and countries. Anyone can make a valid international will, no matter his nationality or residence, as long as he follows the rules set out in the probate code -- which are numerous. An international will must be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses plus a person authorized to act in connection with international wills, defined by the statute to include California attorneys. The authorized person must sign a certificate similar to a notary form -- the exact language of the certificate is set out in the statute -- attesting to the will signing.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.