I heard that if I write my own Will out in my own handwriting, I do not need to have it witnessed, is this true?
If a Will is written entirely in your own handwriting, some States do not require that Will to be witnessed. This is known as a holographic Will or holograph Will.
The trouble is, States vary significantly in their acceptance of a holographic Will.
States that require the entire Will to be handwritten in order for it to be a holographic Will.
Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
States that require only the “material portions” of the Will to be handwritten.
Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming
States that accept holographic Wills if written out of State in a jurisdiction that permits them.
Connecticut, Hawaii, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin
States that accept holographic Wills under other circumstances.
Arkansas accepts a holographic will if three witnesses testify under oath that the will is in the testator’s handwriting. Texas and Tennessee require two witnesses to testify. California only accepts a holographic will if it is dated. New York and Maryland accept holographic wills only if they are made by members of the Armed Forces, and they are only accepted for 1 year from the date they are made.
States that do no accept holographic Wills under any circumstances.
Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island
The inconsistency in the law across the US might be enough to dissuade anybody from trying to handwrite their Will, but there is a far more important reason to use an interactive service like the one at USLegalWills.com or to seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer.
It is almost impossible to write a well drafted Will with all required clauses, starting with a blank piece of paper. Even a person trained in the law would not attempt to do this; every law office in the US use “legal precedents” or paragraphs that are known to work, and they typically use software to compile these into your Will. The only time you should ever consider writing a Will by hand on a blank piece of paper, is if you are stuck under a rock somewhere and had no access to the proper tools to prepare a Will.
The image that accompanies this blog illustrates another problem; a holographic Will simply does not look authentic. This particular handwritten scrap of paper is describing the distribution of a $30 million estate, it was inevitable that a legal battle would result.
Writing a Will through the service at USLegalWills.com is usually about 6-8 pages long and contains over 20 clauses that grant powers to the Executor, set up trusts for minors, and guardians for children. It would be impossible to re-create this type of Will starting with a blank sheet of paper.
So steer clear of holographic Wills and prepare a well-drafted Will today.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of USLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets, and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, NY Metro Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and other leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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