The short answer is: no. A will is a legal document, which lists down how a person called a “testator” would like his assets to be distributed after his death. A will also mentions the name of the executor of the will. If a person dies without leaving behind a valid will or intestate then his estate and all his assets have to be probated.
Just having something scribbled on a piece of paper does not amount to a valid will. The state of California, through Probate Code sections 6110-6113 specifically requires that wills be in writing.
The following is a summary of the various types of Wills and their validity in California:
Holographic will: A holographic will is a will, which is written by hand and not printed or typed on a computer. In California, a holographic will is valid only if all those sections of the will that make the will valid are written entirely in the testator’s hand, it is dated, and the will is signed by the testator. It must, however, be noted that the person writing this will must seek some professional legal opinion to ensure that none of the important language or components are left out, thereby, defeating the purpose of drawing up a valid will.
Oral will: An oral will is a verbal will and is also called “nuncupative will.” It is not valid in California and only recognized in very few states, and only under exceptional circumstances like an impending death of a soldier in a foreign land. This kind of will expresses a dying person’s wishes of disposing of his assets in the presence of a few witnesses. This is done in extreme circumstances where there is no time to do the procedures related to a written will.
Video will: A video will is an effort to leave your testamentary wishes on a video tape or other digital recording device. Video recordings are not valid wills in the state of California. Like an oral will, this could be done in those cases where time is of essence like in the case of a dying person. It could be admitted in the court only as a supportive tool of a written will, and not individually and that too only in extraordinary circumstances.
A formal or traditional will: This kind of will is in writing and is signed by the testator and also signed by at least two witnesses. This will can be signed on behalf of the testator, but in his presence and as per his directions. The witnesses must be present at the time of the testator’s signing of the will or at the acknowledgement of the signing. This is the most traditional kind of will and is recognized by the state of California as valid.
A California statutory will: A California statutory will must be completed and signed by a testator, and at least two witnesses must be present while the testator signs the will. The witnesses must also sign in the presence of the testator.
A will executed under the Uniform International Wills Act. An international will is valid in California. It does not matter where it was made, or where the asseets are located, or the nationality, domicile or residence of the testator.
An international will must be in writing and can be written in any language. Under the UIWA, the testator must state, in the presence of two witnesses and a person authorized to act in connection with international wills, that the document is the testator’s will and that the testator knows the contents of the will.
Thus we have seen that a legal and valid will is only recognized in certain formats. Be sure and prepare your will pursuant to these guidelines.