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Law School Case Brief

Estate of Williams - 155 Cal. App. 4th 197, 66 Cal. Rptr. 3d 34 (2007)


There is no requirement that the signature on a holographic will must be at the end of the document, so long as it appears from the document itself that the signature was intended to authenticate the document. The signature need not be located at the end but may appear in another part of the document, provided the testator wrote his or her name there with the intention of authenticating or executing the instrument as his or her will.


Homer Eugene Williams died on December 7, 2005. On February 21, 2006, his son, Eric Williams Towle (Towle), filed a petition to administer his father's estate, alleging that his father had died intestate. The petition was granted on March 22, 2006. On May 10, 2006, the decedent’s stepdaughter, Deborah Ann Cox (Cox), filed a petition for suspension of Towle’s powers as personal representative of the estate. Concurrently, she filed a petition to admit a holographic will into probate, and a petition to be named the executor of the estate, as specified in the will. The court granted Cox’s petitions and issued orders entering the holographic will into probate and naming Cox as executor of the decedent’s will. On appeal, Towle argued that the document was not a valid holographic will under Prob. Code, § 6111 because it did not contain a valid signature.


Was the document a valid holographic will under Cal. Prob. Code, § 6111?




The California appellate court concluded that the evidence supported the finding that the document was a valid holographic will under Prob. Code, § 6111. The decedent's name and address appeared at the top of the document. Although the decedent did not include his name at the end of the document, the evidence on the face of the document as a whole supported a finding that the decedent's name was placed at the top of the document with the intention of authenticating it. The decedent listed the addresses of those people included in the will. An inference could be drawn from the property values stated in the document that it been written several years before. The stepdaughter testified that she found the document in the decedent's desk drawer, where it was readily available to him. All of this evidence reasonably supported the conclusion that the decedent had done everything that he intended to do. Although the document was written in block letters, Cox testified that the decedent normally wrote in block letters and often left notes signing his name in this manner.

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