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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Inman

What is a Holographic Will?

What is It? A holographic will is a handwritten document signed by the testator (the creator of the will who is leaving a legacy). A lawyer is not involved in the creation of this type of will.

How does it work? Not every state legally recognizes holographic wills. Check for your specific state, but the general requirements are proof of all of the following:

  • The testator wrote the will himself in his own handwriting

  • The testator intended the writing to be a will

  • The testator had the mental capacity to write a will

How do you establish one? First, check to make sure holographic wills are recognized where you live or anywhere you own real estate. The testator simply writes the will entirely by hand, without the need for witnesses or notarization (unless witnesses and/or notarization is required in your jurisdiction). Most states require that a holographic will contain the testator’s signature. Try to write clearly and legibly. And make sure to explicitly name the beneficiaries and the assets which are being bequeathed. Generally, a preprinted form will cannot be used because a court will ignore any pre-printed text on the page and only give effect to the hand-written portions.

Do I want one? For cases where financial circumstances are insufficient to hire an attorney, or where time is gravely insufficient to obtain one, a holographic will may be the only option to having no will at all. Dying with no will at all is called dying intestate. Although there are many pitfalls for holographic wills, including being subject to probate (the legal process of determining if a will is valid), it is usually preferable to dying intestate. The main problem peculiar to holographic wills is the requirement that the handwriting be proved by disinterested witnesses. This means it requires the testimony of people who are familiar with the testator’s handwriting and that are not receiving anything from the will. A further complication with a holographic will is that it will likely require a court hearing prior to being admitted to probate. While there may be circumstances in which the drawbacks of a holographic will are outweighed by other concerns, it is usually an inefficient method for creating an estate plan that has a high probability of failure.

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