Anyone can create a valid handwritten will, known as a holographic will, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the person that made the handwritten will. (Probate Code §6111(a).) A holographic will does not have to be signed by any witnesses.
It’s interesting to note that a holographic will is not required to be dated. However, if there is more than one will, a holographic will is invalid if it is inconsistent with the terms of a dated witnessed will. (Probate Code §6111(b).)
It is common for a handwritten will to be very short. I’ve probated a holographic will that was on a small Steno notepad page that said “I give all my worldly possessions to my daughter, Amy G. Love, Jim G. /s/.”
I’ve also probated six-page handwritten wills that discuss why the testator disinherited family members and explained completely irrelevant facts.
The entire will does not have to be handwritten, just the material provisions and the signature must be in the handwriting of the person that made the will. So, it is also acceptable to have a commercially printed will form, and the blanks filled in in the handwriting of the testator.
A holographic will, like all wills, must demonstrate a testamentary intent, meaning that the person creating the will intended to dispose of his or her property after death, and that testamentary intent can either be in the handwriting of the decedent or as part of a commercially printed form will. (Probate Code §6111(c).)
It’s important to note that a will is not required to bring a probate action to administer a decedent’s estate. When someone dies without a will, the California laws of intestate succession determine who will inherit the assets. Thus, if you cannot find a will, you can still file a probate case to administer the estate.