What is a 'Holographic Will'

A holographic will is handwritten; testator signed, document and is an alternative to a will produced by a lawyer. Some states do not recognize holographic wills. States that do permit holographic wills require the document meet specific requirements to be valid. The minimal requirements for most states are proof that the testator wrote the will, evidence that the testator had the mental capacity to write the will, and the will must contain the testator's wish to disburse personal property to beneficiaries.

BREAKING DOWN 'Holographic Will'

Holographic wills don't need to be witnessed or notarized, which can lead to some issues during will validation in probate court. To avoid fraud, most states require that a holographic will contain the maker's signature. However, the courts will have to determine whether the will was signed in the testator's signature and by the testator's hand. Handwriting experts or people familiar with the decedents' handwriting must convince the court that the signature was indeed that of the deceased. Problems arise when the handwriting is vague or illegible. 

As with any will, a testator to a holographic will must be explicit as to named beneficiaries and receipt of property or assets, such as stocks, bonds, and fund accounts. The testator may also detail circumstances for recipients to meet to receive named assets.

Some lawyers recommend that explaining why specific property or other assets such as securities would be left to which beneficiaries would indicate that the testator was of sound mind. Being of sound mind is a crucial provision to determining the validity of a holographic will. 

Also, a holographic will argued in probate court may not contain the testator's final wishes. The decedent may have written the holographic will as a draft or may have utterly forgotten to update it. These questions may be brought up in court.

Today, there are a variety of software, books, and websites with detailed instructions on how to create and print a valid will and avoid some probate court problems. If a will is printed as opposed to being handwritten, it requires the witness of witnessed by at least two people.

Where are Holographic Wills Accepted? 

It's important to note that state probate law ultimately decides the treatment of all wills within its borders. Some states will accept holographic wills to varying degrees. These states include; Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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