Having a will in place is vital for any American to help protect their loved ones. But is it necessary that you go through the process of working with an attorney to draw up a will? Or can you just write down your wishes yourself? This type of will, known as a holographic will, is a tricky subject. Here are some answers to your questions about it.
What Is a Holographic Will?
Holographic wills are simply wills that are written in the testator's own hand but which generally have no witnesses to the signature.
These wills are less formal than traditional wills, so they can take a variety of forms, including notes that are less organized than usual but which indicate that the intent of them is to serve as a will. This recently happened with the holographic will of the late Aretha Franklin.
Is a Holographic Will Valid?
A will is only as good as it is legally enforceable. So, are holographic wills valid? In some states, yes. Currently, 26 states recognize holographic wills as valid wills. Each has its own specific rules that the will must meet, such as whether or not a date is required or how much must be in the person's own handwriting.
What If You Move States?
Clearly, states are divided over whether or not to recognize holographic wills. They are also divided about whether or not to recognize these wills if drafted in another state. If you write a holographic will in a state in which they're valid, you may or may not see that will validated if you move to one which doesn't.
Is a Holographic Will a Good Idea?
People may turn to a holographic will due to its perceived simplicity and low cost. But just because you can write one doesn't mean it's always a good idea. As mentioned, holographic wills may not be valid in your state. And even if they are, you must follow specific rules.
Just as worrisome, though, is that a holographic will may be harder to confirm than a properly executed standard will. Without witnesses to attest to your state of mind and signature, contested wills are more likely to happen. Too, things can be more complicated if the will could appear to be simple notes not intended to be a will.
Finally, the will must be verified through analysis of the handwriting. If this is contested, handwriting experts may be necessary.
What Should You Do Instead?
If you're thinking of writing a holographic will or have one already, learn more about its pros and cons in your state. Meet with a will planning lawyer today.