Most traditional wills are drafted by an attorney, printed and then signed in front of several witnesses, but many states also permit residents to create a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will. Before computers became a staple of homes and offices everywhere, many wills were handwritten. As technology advanced, state requirements did, too. Luckily, some states preserved their laws permitting a handwritten will. Here's a look at what you need to know about holographic wills and how to use one.
The Basics of the Holographic Will
A holographic will must be written exclusively in your handwriting. It is not permissible to have portions of the will handwritten and others typed, as this invalidates the document completely. There are approximately 30 states with provisions to accept holographic will under certain circumstances. Some of those states require that you sign and date the will, others only accept them from active service members. No matter where you live, an attorney can help you understand the laws surrounding holographic wills in your state.
Why Consider a Holographic Will
Holographic wills are a convenient way to ensure that your estate is handled the way that you wish. You don't need to spend hours with an attorney, and in many cases, you aren't required to have a witness present. The convenience of hand writing your will means that you can change it at any time without having to make an appointment with your attorney or justify the change to anyone. Despite these differences, holographic wills are usually still held to the other requirements for writing a will, including any age requirements that your state might have. For example, some states require that you be at least 18 years old to create a will.
About Witnesses for Holographic Wills
Every state requires that you to be coherent and have a thorough understanding of your environment and the nature of your property before you can make a will. The term used by most courts is that you must be of sound mind. To prove this, printed wills require that you have witnesses present to sign it in testament that you meet these requirements.
Some of the states that recognize holographic wills have no witness requirements at all. Instead, they simply require that they be able to validate your handwriting after your passing to ensure that the will was written by you personally. Other states require that you have witnesses sign the will as a testament that it is in your handwriting and you clearly knew what you were writing at the time.
Some of the states that require witness signatures will waive this requirement for active service members, accepting their holographic wills with only the writer's signature and date. It is in your best interest to have witnesses sign the will even if they aren't required, though. Handwritten wills are easier to contest without witness signatures.
If a family member disagrees with your will, he or she may claim that you were incapacitated or coerced into writing it the way that it appears. This may lead to a lengthy debate in probate court unless you have witness signatures to validate it. Further, these signatures may help to negate the need for handwriting verification, which can speed up the process of distributing your estate, and it can potentially save your loved ones from a probate hearing in the event that there are any questions.
If you live in a state that recognizes holographic wills, it may give you the flexibility to create your will and change it as you see fit without having to get into a lengthy legal process. If you are uncertain about the requirements for holographic wills in your state, an attorney can help you clarify the statute and get more information on how to create a legally-binding will.