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Wills & Probate Resources
Can a Will Be Handwritten
A handwritten will is also called a holographic will. A holographic will is valid in some U.S. states (about half of them). Of course, as is the case with all wills, there are requirements for a holographic will to be deemed legally valid in those jurisdictions.
Is a Handwritten Will Legally Valid?
In U.S. states that allow holographic wills, certain requirements and restrictions such as these may apply:
- The testator preparing the will must be age 18 or older.
- The testator preparing the will must be of sound mind to be able to make the will.
- The will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator. Some state jurisdictions require only that the material portions of the handwritten will be prepared in the testator's handwriting, as opposed to the entirety of the document).
- Any revisions to the will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator.
- The will must be signed by the testator.
- In some jurisdictions, the will must be dated by the testator.
- in some jurisdictions, the handwriting of the testator must be identified or acknowledged by one or more disinterested witnesses with personal knowledge of the testator and his or her handwriting after the testator's death.
- Rarely, in a minority of jurisdictions, the handwritten will must be witnessed contemporaneously with its creation by one or more disinterested witnesses.
Are There drawbacks to Handwritten Wills?
Handwritten wills are more frequently scrutinized by courts than typed wills or those prepared by attorneys because they are often ambiguous and/or inadvertently omit key requirements for validity due to the fact that they are prepared by lay persons. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible for a court to construe an ambiguous provision in a handwritten will in a manner that is the opposite of the testator's intent. The court is left to try to substitute its interpretations and understandings for those of the testator in instances of confusion and ambiguity.
There is an even more drastic and less desirable outcome to having a handwritten will, as well. If the court construes the entire handwritten will to be invalid, then the testator is deemed to have died without a will, or intestate. Under the laws of intestate succession, the state government makes the determination of which parties inherit property of a testator's estate, rather than the decedent himself.
It is relatively easy to prepare (or have prepared) a reasonably-priced simple will. Because the risks of a handwritten will can be high and the burdens— particularly the cost burdens—are relatively low, it is usually prudent to invest a small amount of additional time and effort in preparing a legally valid typewritten or attorney-prepared will.