Fantastic stories may exist about people producing wills that were written on napkins or in emails. Many in Los Angeles may be surprised to learn that it is not so much the medium on which a will is written that determines its validity, but rather whether it meets the state’s standard of proof. Given that the American Association of Retired Persons reports that only roughly 40 percent of American adults actually have a will, it may be understandable that probate courts first require that a will be proven before it can be probated. 

The requirements for proving a will can found in Sections 8220-8221 of California’s Probate Code. Here, it states that in the absence of a will contest, the testimony of only one witness to the will is needed to validate it. That testimony can be given in person or through a deposition if the witness does not reside in the county in which the will is being probated. In the case of a deposition, it is sufficient to produce a photocopy of the will for the witness to examine to attest to is legitimacy. 

If there are no witnesses to the will’s execution available, the court will examine the will itself to determine if, on its face alone, conforms with all the state’s requirements of a valid will. If so, the court may then prove it by verifying that its handwriting matches that of the testator and one of the subscribing witnesses. A writing in the will bearing the signatures of all the witnesses or affirmation from a reputable person with personal knowledge of the execution of the will may also be enough to validate it.