Is Your Handwritten Will Valid?

A handwritten will may be better than no will at all, but not in all cases. Some states invalidate handwritten wills automatically, and others still have additional requirements. Read on to learn more about this aspect of estate planning law and wills.

What Makes a Holographic Will Legal?

Wills are considered both a personal and a legal matter. It's only natural that some individuals prefer to make out their own wills and forgo a trip to the law office. The chances of such a will being legal depends on the specific laws of the state. Below, find out about some common requirements for holographic wills:

1. A will drawn up using an attorney requires both a signature and witnesses. A holographic will, however, only requires that the will be signed by the owner of the will (the testator) – no witnesses are necessary.

After the death of the testator, the will must be evaluated for legality and legitimacy. That means that the will must not contain any illegal provisions and that more than one person testifies (under oath) to the signature's validity.

2. Pre-printed, fill-in-the-blank type wills have become popular, but some states require that portions of the will be handwritten and not filled out on a computer and then printed. If you want to use this type of pre-printed will, print it out and fill in the blanks by hand. Wills that contain no handwriting may not be valid, and wills that are entirely created by typing or on a word processor are not acceptable in most probate courts.

3. For those in the military, special rules exist in some places. For example, if you live in New York and Maryland, your holographic will could be legal, whereas handwritten wills written by civilians are not. The soldier must be on active duty when the will is created, and it is valid for a year after they leave service.

4. Some states do not, under any circumstances, allow holographic wills. In the absence of a valid will, the deceased is said to have passed away intestate. The laws of each state will lend guidance to the probate court as to how the estate is handled. Usually, surviving spouses automatically receive the estate. Each state has a plan of succession to address how the estate is passed down when the deceased precedes the spouse in death.

Even if you live in a state that allows a holographic will to be probated, use caution. If the will contains illegal provisions, the entire will could be ruled invalid. Speak to an estate attorney for guidance on your will.