A Last Will and Testament is an essential estate planning document that ensures you have the final say in how your property is taken care of once you pass away. Generally, for a Last Will to be valid, it needs to be written according to your state’s laws and regulations, and it needs to be signed by you and at least two witnesses.
Having the foresight to plan ahead is obviously the ideal scenario, but what happens in situations where time is of the essence, there are no witnesses available, and you want to make sure your wishes are followed? A holographic Will may be right for you.
A holographic Will, sometimes referred to as a handwritten Will or holograph Will, is an unwitnessed Will that is entirely physically written and signed by the testator (the person whose property is going to be distributed upon death).
Although not the ideal choice, sometimes holographic wills are necessary options for individuals who are in situations where creating a typed and witnessed Last Will can be a problem—such as soldiers at war or sailors at sea.
In this post, we’ll lightly unpack the topic of holographic wills and answer some common questions.
Is a Handwritten Will Valid?
Generally, a handwritten Will is considered valid as long as it includes the testator’s signature. However, depending on the state, there may be different requirements.
For example, some states may not require the testator’s signature at all, and some states may even accept the Will as a holographic even if it’s typed.
The circumstances surrounding how the Will was written could also be taken into consideration.
For example, if a soldier is on active military duty and writes a holographic Will, it may be considered valid even if the state where the Will goes to probate (the legal process where a Will is proved to be valid or invalid) doesn’t generally accept holographic wills.
Which States Recognize Holographic Wills?
Not all states accept holographic wills, and the ones that do usually have specific requirements that must be met for the Will to be valid.
However, as long as you meet their specific requirements, the following states will generally accept holographic wills:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Keep in mind that state laws can change at any time, so it is important to check with your local court, county recorder’s office, or a lawyer for confirmation that your state will accept a holographic Will.
How Do I Write a Holographic Will?
Holographic wills (just like regular wills) need to specifically state that the document is a Last Will and Testament, usually by simply labelling it at the top. You’ll also need to sign and date your Will once you are finished writing it.
To make sure your Will is carried out how you want, you’ll also need to choose people to fulfill certain roles like that of an executor, a beneficiary, and a guardian.
An executor is the person you choose to carry out your last wishes according to your Will. The executor is a personal representative that makes sure everything in your Will is handled properly once you pass away. The person you choose for this important position should be someone that you know and trust.
A beneficiary is a person or organization (like a charity) of your choosing who will receive a gift under your Will. If you choose not to designate a beneficiary, your estate will be distributed among your surviving family members according to your state’s law.
A guardian should also be appointed, if necessary, to take care of any minor children or pets. You can also set aside funds to assist them in taking care of any dependents.
Your Will also needs to be stored in a safe place, preferably in a spot protected from fire and floods, such as a fire and waterproof safe. Another option is to keep your Will with your attorney. Whichever option you choose, it’s important that you let trusted people (such as your executor) know where they can locate your Will so they can execute it when necessary. .
Either way, your Will should be accessible to your remaining family members or loved ones so they are able to carry out your wishes.
Should I Write a Holographic Will?
If you have the option to plan ahead, then writing a standard Last Will and Testament that is typed and signed by you and witnesses is the ideal way to plan your estate.
If advanced planning is not an option for you, a holographic will is the next best thing for making your wishes known because there is still a chance it will be recognized.
Would you write a holographic Will?