What is a Holographic Will

Legal Article

What is a Holographic Will

A holographic will is simply a handwritten will that is written, signed, and dated by pen. There are many options out there for people who want to make their own last will and testament without a lawyer. Though filing out a last will and testament template online offers more security compared to writing a will by hand, some people—especially if they are in life-threatening—must write their last will and testament by hand. This scenario occurs most commonly for soldiers working in active war zones that will create a will and hand it to someone they trust to take it back to their family. Additionally, certain seniors may not have the know-how or finances required to make an online last will and testament or have an estate planning lawyer draft a will.

Though a holographic will may be some people’s only way to leave a plan for their heirs, holographic wills are not valid in every state. Furthermore, in certain states that do accept holographic wills, there are restrictions on what these states accept. Below are the states that allow holographic wills.

States that Allow Holographic Wills

It’s important to note that although the below states except holographic wills, these states may have different probate laws deciding the treatment of these wills. Additionally, some states on the list will accept holographic wills to varying degrees.

  • 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
  • Wyoming

States Accepting Parts of Holographic Wills

Additionally, there are certain states that do not allow holographic wills yet will accept a holographic will made by someone in a different state who dies in the foreign state. States that accept foreign holographic wills include.

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Washington

Finally, in New York and Maryland, holographic wills are only recognized if they are made by a member of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, holographic wills in Maryland that are made by soldiers remain valid only for one year after the testator leaves the Armed Forces. The only exception to this law is if the solider suffers from incapacity once they return home. New York treats holographic wills similarly. A holographic will is valid for one year after the testator is discharged from the Armed Forces, or for one year after they regain a testamentary capacity.

Proving the Validity of a Holographic Will

If someone who writes a holographic will dies without notarizing their will, validating the will becomes very difficult in probate court. Having someone watch you sign the will allows you to avoid questions about the validity of the will. Even if there are questions about the validity of the will, the person who notarized the will can come to court and testify. Proving the intent of the person signing the will is more difficult especially if there are no witnesses. Thus, the person testifying can state that you were aware and had the intent to create and sign the will.

Thus, if you are trying to validate your holographic will, there must be evidence that the writing of the will is in fact that of the person who died. There are two common ways to validate the handwriting of a holographic will. First, people who were familiar with the person who created the will could testify that the person did in fact create the will. The other common way to validate the handwriting of a will is for a handwriting expert to analyze the writing on the will.

Disadvantages of Choosing to Use a Holographic Will

Legal Validity

The biggest issue with a handwritten will is proving their legal validity even in states that accept them. Laws change constantly and if you create a holographic will yet do not update the will, the probate court could invalidate the will.

Locating the Will

Locating a holographic will can be extremely difficult. Unlike getting a last will and testament from an online template or hiring a lawyer, a holographic will likely only has one copy of the document. Thus, if a holographic will is placed in a drawer or under a bed and cannot be found by a relative or friend after that person dies, it will be like that person never made a will.

After-death Expenses

A holographic will can save expenses upfront. However, because of the issues with a holographic will, after you die, your family will likely have to spend a significant amount of money on legal fees focused on validating your will. Furthermore, even if a family hires a lawyer yet cannot find any witnesses to validate the will, the money meant to go to your beneficiaries will go to legal fees.

Lack of Clarity

When people handwrite a holographic will, these wills may not have the clarity necessary to outline all assets and issues. Furthermore, a holographic will could use an ambiguous term that confuses the probate court. If this occurs, distributing the assets in the estate exactly how the person wanted can be extremely difficult.

Leaving Something Out

An extremely common issue with holographic wills is that the person creating the will forgets to include all their assets and wishes on how to distribute this property. Even in situations where a person has only a few assets, if any of the assets are left out, it could be extremely expensive to receive these assets.

Should You Make a Holographic Will

A holographic will may seem easier to create and less costly then purchasing an online last will and testament template or hiring a lawyer. However, for the reasons discussed above, printing out a will online or hiring an attorney is always a better idea then creating a holographic will.

Final Thoughts

Estate planning is extremely complex. This is true no matter how you create your last will and testament. However, creating a holographic will is never a good idea no matter how tempting it may be to save money at the start. As such, it is extremely important to have legal representation that you can consult when creating this document. The Antonoplos & Associates trust and estate lawyers have over 20 years of experience helping clients in DC, Maryland, and Virginia create last wills and testaments. With this knowledge and experience, we can help you create a last will and testament that avoids legal issues in the future.

Contact our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information regarding what is a holographic will, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding estate planning, check out our blog.