The Legality of a Handwritten Will

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You may feel put off by the formalities required in estate planning, especially if you do not have much property to dispose of to begin with, and that it would be easier to just write out your will by hand. In certain instances, you may be able to write out a will by hand that would qualify for probate. However, there are still baseline criteria that have to be met for the will to be valid. Furthermore, there are some jurisdictions that do not recognize handwritten wills under any circumstances.

Handwritten Will Legality Varies by State

The validity of your handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, depends on the location where you write it. Twenty-seven states, more than half, permit holographic wills under any circumstances. These states are North Dakota, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Dakota, Nevada, Tennessee, Nebraska, Texas, Montana, Utah, Mississippi, Virginia, Michigan, West Virginia, Maine, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska, Kentucky, Arizona, California, Arkansas, Colorado, and Idaho.

However, approximately one-third of states do not permit handwritten wills at all. Holographic wills are not valid under any circumstances in the following states:

  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia
  • Minnesota
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Delaware
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Alabama
  • Oregon
  • Wisconsin
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

The remaining states permit handwritten wills only under certain circumstances. For example, South Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, and Hawaii have foreign will provisions that will accept a holographic will to probate if it was written in another state but do not permit holographic wills written within their own borders. In Maryland and New York, the only handwritten wills admitted to probate are those written by active military members.

Handwritten Wills Have Specific Requirements

Even where holographic wills are allowed, however, they still have to meet minimum validity requirements to go to probate. One of the most significant requirements is that the will has to be written and signed entirely in the testator’s hand. This is to ensure that no one has tampered with the will to add self-interested provisions. The court may ask at least two witnesses to attest to the authenticity of the writing on the document and confirm it was written in the decedent’s hand.

Holographic wills must be handwritten, not typed out. In an instance in which the will includes both typed and handwritten sections, the probate court will consider only the latter and ignore the former.

Some jurisdictions require that a holographic will be dated. Although most wills must be signed by witnesses, this requirement does not apply to a handwritten will.

Regardless of whether or not you opt for a holographic will, it is a good idea to work with an estate planning lawyer in O’Fallon, MO to ensure your testamentary documents are acceptable for probate. Contact a law office for more information.

Thanks to the Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning and handwritten wills.