What is a holographic will?
A holographic will is a handwritten document signed by a testator and is an alternative to a will produced by a lawyer. Some states do not recognize holographic wills. States that allow holographic wills require the document to meet specific requirements to be valid. The minimum requirements for most states are proof that the testator drafted the will, proof that the testator had the mental capacity to draw up the will, and the will must contain the will of the testator to pay the personal property to the beneficiaries.
Key points to remember
- Holographic wills can be alternatives to wills created by lawyers.
- Holographic wills do not require notarization or witnesses.
- This type of will can cause problems in the probate court.
How a holographic will works
Holographic wills do not need to be certified or notarized, which can lead to certain problems when validating the will during probate. To avoid fraud, most states require a holographic image to contain the manufacturer’s signature. However, the courts will have to determine whether the will was signed with the signature of the testator and his hand. Writing experts or people familiar with writing the deceased must convince the court that the signature is that of the deceased. Problems arise when the writing is vague or illegible.
As with any will, the testator of a holographic will must be explicit about the named beneficiaries and the receipt of property or assets, such as stocks, bonds, and fund accounts. The testator can also detail the circumstances under which the recipients must meet to receive the named assets.
Holographic wills are not accepted in all states and are subject to the laws of each state.
Some lawyers recommend explaining why specific assets or other assets such as securities would be left with beneficiaries who would indicate that the testator was sane. Being sane is a crucial step in determining the validity of a holographic will.
In addition, a holographic will presented before a probate court may not contain the last wishes of the testator. The deceased may have written the holographic will in draft form or have completely forgotten to update it. These issues can be raised 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 to avoid some probate problems. If a will is printed rather than handwritten, it requires the testimony of at least two people.
Where are holographic wills accepted?
It is important to note that the law on state homologation ultimately decides the treatment of all wills within its borders. Some states 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.
In some states, holographic wills made in the state are not recognized, but wills made in jurisdictions where holographic wills are recognized are accepted under foreign testamentary provisions. For a holographic will to be recognized as valid under a provision on foreign wills when this practice is legal, the holographic will must have been made in a jurisdiction that recognizes holographic wills. States with foreign wills or foreign wills include Hawaii, Louisiana, South Carolina, Oregon and Washington.
In New York and Maryland, holographic wills are only recognized if they are made by a member of the Armed Forces. In Maryland, these wills remain valid only one year after the testator has left the Armed Forces, unless he is no longer sane by law at that time. In New York, such a will is valid for one year after the discharge of the testator from the Armed Forces, or for one year after he or she regains testamentary capacity, whichever comes first.