Making Your Own Handwritten Will
A note hastily written and left on your bedside table right before you pass away may be sufficient to act as a will, but not always. This type of will is known as a holographic will, and is accepted only in some states.
In order for holographic wills to be recognized in the states that allow them, three general requirements must be fulfilled: the will must clearly be intended as a final disposition of the individual’s assets, must be written entirely in the individual’s own handwriting, and must have evidence that the individual wrote the will (such as through witnesses or an expert in identifying handwriting). Other general will requirements also apply, such as the testator — the person writing the will — being of sound mind at the time of writing.
Some states impose additional requirements. For instance, California requires that the date of execution be proven before a holographic will is valid. New York permits only members of the U.S. armed forces to draft a holographic will while serving in a conflict. Additionally, some states that outlaw holographic wills, such as Hawaii and Connecticut, do allow those that were properly executed in another state that allows them.
In all cases, a properly drafted, executed, and witnessed will is preferable to a holographic will; holographic wills should be considered as last resort options only. These types of wills — and also any will drafted without an attorney’s oversight — are also dangerous because ambiguous or imprecise language in the will may result in unexpected and undesirable outcomes.
Estate planning is one area of law in which mistakes are almost impossible to resolve. Errors in a will cannot be corrected after a person’s death, so the probate court can only do its best to try to decipher the individual’s preferences.
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