Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

Written by chuck hinson | 13/05/2017
Is a Handwritten Will Legal?
Handwritten wills can be as valid as typed or printed versions. (Image by, courtesy of Kevin Walsh)

In order to ensure that your property is properly distributed and your family attended in the event of your death, it is important to write and file a legal will. This can be handwritten in most states and still be legal and enforceable.


A handwritten, or holographic, will must be written out in only the decedent's own handwriting. In some states, any typed or printed information on that type of will can render it invalid.


In most states, the decedent's signature may appear anywhere on his handwritten will. However, it must be signed at the end of it to verify the decedent's intent.


According to the U.S. Uniform Probate Code, a handwritten will does not necessarily need third-party witnesses in order to be considered valid. However, to have witnesses to the composition and signature of the decedent can only bolster the validity of the document.


According to the personal finance site, 26 states recognise a holographic will as a legal and valid document. The states of Maryland and New York recognise them only if written by Armed Forces personnel while serving in a conflict overseas, and these are only valid for the period of one year.


There can be various documents that may be considered handwritten wills, including letters that the decedent has sent with directions as to disposition of property. Only the courts can determine the intent of these letters.

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