The California Probate Code provides for what is known as a statutory will. In simple terms, a statutory will in the state of California is a highly simple form that can be downloaded and filled out by a resident of the state. You can access a printable version of the lawful form here: California Statutory Will. Before diving into “filling out” a California statutory will, you need to review this basic and essential information about this important legal instrument. Specifically, a set of important questions need to be answered in order to have a complete understanding of a statutory will:

  • What is a California statutory will?
  • Can you add provisions to a California statutory will?
  • What are the pros of using a statutory will?
  • What are the cons of using a statutory will?
  • Does a California statutory will need witnesses?
  • Where does a California statutory will go once signed?

What Is a California Statutory Will?

A statutory will is a simple standard form created by the California Legislature. A statutory will contains basic provisions that permit a person the ability to delineate what he or she wants to happen with his or her property at the time of death. You merely need to fill in the blanks of the will and sign it properly to make it effective. The manner in which a statutory will needs to be signed is discussed in a moment. 

You have the option of filling in the blanks. You can also fill in the blanks in a California statutory will by hand. 

Can You Add Provisions to a California Statutory Will?

You cannot add any provisions to a California statutory will. You must use the standard form as-is and fill in the blanks available to you. Because of this limitation, in many instances a statutory will is something of a stopgap measure to address an immediate need for a will. In the end, a more traditional will is created to replace a statutory will.

What Are Circumstances in Which a California Statutory Will Is Appropriate?

There are a number of situations in which the use of a statutory will is acceptable, perhaps even advised. One of the most commonplace situations in which a statutory will is appropriate if not necessary is when some sort of situation arises in which drafting a standard will is not possible. A common example is when a person is leaving for an extended trip and lacks a will. A statutory will permits a person to have a will placed quickly in place when time is of the essence.

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting another type of situation in which using a statutory will may make sense. The reality is that law firms tend to not be operating at full-throttle and arranging for a more traditional will may prove challenging when most of the country is in a sort of lockdown. 

What Are the Pros of Using a Statutory Will?

The most significant benefit associated with a statutory will is that you can complete it quickly and in a situation when time is of the essence. You truly can complete such a will in a far shorter period of time than is needed for a more traditional will. 

You can undertake the creation of a statutory will without the need for legal assistance. Thus, another of the benefits of a statutory will is that it is affordable. 

What Are the Cons of Using a Statutory Will?

Above all else, a statutory will’s most significant downside is that it is very narrow in its application. As mentioned previously, you cannot add any additional provisions to the instrument. For this reason, if you have even a slightly complex estate, a statutory will may not prove to be a suitably appropriate form for a last will and testament. Even in an emergency situation, for this reason, a statutory will may not work. 

Does a California Statutory Will Need Witnesses?

A statutory will has the same witness requirements associated with a standard will in the state of California. You need to have two witnesses who are present when you sign a statutory will. They sign the instrument as well. By doing so, they attest that you are of sound mind and body when you signed a statutory will, you know what is contained in the instrument, and you intend for the instrument to be your last will and testament. 

Where Does a California Statutory Will Go Once Signed?

As is the case with any type of last will and testament, once it is signed, the instrument must be placed in a safe location. The location needs to be one that the executor you name in a statutory will has access. If you pass on while a statutory will is in force and effect, the original needs to be filed with the probate court