Understanding Holographic Will Basics

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While most wills are written by an attorney and then signed in front of witnesses, that isn't the only option available to you. In fact, many states allow for what's known as a holographic will. It's handwritten and signed only by you, the author. The holographic will is usually permitted as part of legacy laws from the time before computers became mainstream and most every will was jotted down at the kitchen table. If you're interested in this type of will, here are some things you should know before you discuss it with a probate attorney.

Why Would You Want a Holographic Will?

One of the biggest reasons that many people opt for a holographic will is convenience. It is an easy way to be sure that your estate is dispensed the way that you want it to be. All you have to do is write it down, which means you can change it any time you see fit. There's no need to call an attorney every time you want to change something or to justify the changes you want to make to anyone.

Do You Need Witnesses For a Holographic Will?

Witnesses are usually required during the signature process of a will. These witnesses usually serve to confirm that the individual creating the will is coherent and completely understands exactly what they are doing. For this reason, some states may require that a holographic will carry a signature from at least one witness. In those situations, the witness is simply confirming that the will is, in fact, written by you and that you did so willingly and with a complete understanding of what you were writing.

Even in states that don't require signature, you may find that it's in your and your family's best interests to have at least one. Having a witness signature on the document makes it harder for your family members to contest. In addition, it can eliminate the need for handwriting verification and may potentially save a lengthy probate process.

Holographic wills are a great way to manage your own estate. If you're not sure about your state's regulations about these types of wills, you should talk with a probate attorney (like those at Wilson Deege Despotovich Riemenschneider & Rittgers) right away. He or she can not only help you understand how your state views these documents but also any specific requirements that you'll have to include. This is important, because an invalidated holographic will may lead to your estate ending up in the probate process, which could make things challenging for your loved ones.