What is a Holographic Will?

March 23, 2021   -   ,

Your will is one of the most critical documents in your estate plan. As you research, you’ll learn about many different types of wills, such as simple wills, joint wills, and pour-over wills. One of the more misunderstood versions is the holographic will, so this article will go over the following information:

  1. What is a holographic will?
  2. Is a holographic will legally binding?
  3. The drawbacks of a holographic will
  4. Should you get a holographic will?

What is Holographic Will?

In the simplest terms, a holographic will is a handwritten estate planning document written by the owner of the estate, also known as the testator. Like a simple will, a holographic will states the testator’s final wishes and property distribution of the estate, but it’s not produced by a lawyer. In some cases, it’s not even signed in the presence of a witness.

Handwritten wills often occur in emergency situations where the testator did not have time to create a formal will. The validity of a holographic will is determined by the laws of the state where the testator lives.

Is a Holographic Will Legally Binding?

In some cases, a holographic will can be legally binding. Firstly, the testator must live in a state that recognizes such documents. Currently, those stares are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Even though these states allow for holographic wills, the laws detailing their validity vary from one to another. Yet some similar bylaws do exist between the states. For example, a rule generally required between these states is that such a will should be written entirely in the testator’s handwriting. Additionally, if the testator’s handwriting is difficult to read, proving the will’s validity is compromised

Another common requirement is that the testator must be of sound mind when the will was drafted. The will could be contested or invalidated if there is reason to believe that the testator’s mental state was diminished.

Additionally, a holographic will must include a comprehensive plan for how assets are to be distributed. Without such plan, the will has a greater chance of being declared intestate, meaning the courts will have to determine how the assets will be divided, costing your family time and money.

What are the Drawbacks of Creating a Holographic Will?

The most significant drawback of a holographic will is that it may not contain a complete view of your property & assets in your estate. Additionally, if suppose the will is not sufficiently drafted or signed, your family must prove to the courts that the will is valid. In either situation, your family will be forced to dispute the details in court, further complicating and slowing the distribution of your estate.

Other minor issues could invalidate the will include:

  • Having more than one handwritten will
  • Missing dates
  • Incorrectly dated
  • Not written entirely in the testator’s handwriting
  • Missing signature

While it technically costs nothing to prepare a holographic will, in the end, these minor issues will cost your estate and loved ones more in court fees, legal fees, and emotional distress trying to correct all of the problems.

Is A Holographic Will Right For Me?

As mentioned, a holographic will is often drafted in emergency situations where the testator does not have a lot of time to prepare a formal will with a legal professional. However, a holographic will has the potential to leave holes in your estate plan. These holes extend the process of settling your estate and end up costing your family financially and emotionally during a time where they would like to grieve and celebrate your life.

Thus, we are of the opinion that a holographic will is not a great choice if you have time to plan.. Instead, you should consult a legal professional that can create a solid estate plan for you.

How to Start Your Estate Planning

Having a will is a vital aspect of your estate plan, no matter how many assets you have. With the right type of will in place, you can ensure that your loved ones are taken care of, your assets are distributed satisfactorily, and that your final wishes can be carried out.

Check out our other resources for help on how to start having conversations with your family and friends.