How to write a holographic will

Updated July 20, 2017

Creating a valid last will and testament, which will stand-up in court under the most intense legal scrutiny, has become an expensive undertaking. Most lawyers may charge a client well over a thousand dollars for preparing a basic form will. Yet, there is a viable alternative, a totally legal (depending upon your state), and administratively efficient method of preparing your own will that will cost the testator absolutely nothing. It's called a holographic will, and requires only an ink pen, several sheets of lined notebook paper and a little time.

Writing a legally binding holographic will requires that the entire document, that is, every word, must be in the testator's own cursive handwriting, or printing. Most attorney-prepared wills are typewritten, which means that there have to be, at least, two witnesses who sign beneath the testator's signature to afirm that it is, indeed, the official signature of that person on the will. Since, in most cases, the testator has not personally prepared the will, an estate judge would presume that anyone could have typed and signed it. That is, especially, why witnesses to the signature of the testator, in such a will, are ultimately necessary. With a holographic will, the signature will consequentially follow the document, which is written in the same script as that of the signature. This is why an estate judge, in a state that accepts holographic wills, may not question the validity of a holographic will written by a person of sound mind.

Properly dating a holographic will is essential to proving that the testator was of sound mind at the time the will was prepared. The date should appear at the top of the document and the form of the will should proceed as follows:

  1. I, the testator, write this holographic will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the disposition of my estate after my death. As of the date of this will, I am of sound mind and am totally capable of determining my own affairs

  2. As to my personal possessions, and chattels, which I will leave behind in the wake of my death, I, here-and-now, declare my intent as to their disposition.

  3. As to the money in my bank account, I want it to go to my. . .(son, daughter, wife, etc.)

  4. As to my stocks and bonds (if any), I want them to go to my. . .(son daughter, wife, etc.)

  5. As to my coin collections, etc. (if any) I want them to go to. my . .(son, wife, daughter, etc.),

  6. As to my legal interest in the house in which I have lived for the past, so-many, years, I want it to go to my. . ,(son, daughter, wife)

The point in this particular form is to specifically set in order who will receive your personal property, real estate, and money after your death. In setting this in order, you must be specific.

The form will continue 7, 8, 9, . . .for as many specified bequeathments that are necessary for the will to be complete.

The most important aspect of a holographic is its readability, or, rather, its neatness. The testator should carefully take time to ensure that the entire will is completely legible.

Writing the holographic will might require several sheets of paper, but that's all right. Use as many sheets as are necessary to set forth exactly where, and to whom, you want your money and possessions to go after your death. Remember, be specific as to your intents and wishes. The will may include your own personal statements as to why you prefer, for example, your son to receive your money instead of your wife. This is where the dating and disposition of the will, after the testator writes it, are crucial to its legal validity. If, per chance, someone challenges the will as the product of an unsound mind, the testator's preparation in properly dating the will, and showing that the testator was carrying on with 'business as usual' at the time she wrote the will, the judge will be more likely to declare the will as binding.

Insuring that the holographic will was prepared by the testator, at, and on, a particular date in time, the person preparing the will should, finally, seal the will in an envelope, place cellophane tape over the seal and send it to herself by certified mail. When it is delivered, sign for it and staple the signed receipt to the envelope. Then place the will in a safety deposit box, in a wall safe or in a file cabinet, for safe keeping. This process will ensure the integrity of the holographic will. Just don't forget to sign the will.


In many cases, properly written holographic wills have the same chance of standing-up to legal scrutiny as attorney-prepared wills, especially if the testator has a distinctive handwriting style, or a unique signature, which no one could possibly forge. Don't allow fast-talking attorneys to undercut your ability, and right, to prepare your own legal estate document. Especially if you are wealthy, and have close, but obnoxious, relatives clamouring for an inheritance, a holographic will can be done in the privacy of your study or office, and no one has to know, but you, that another will disinheriting those people you don't particularly care for, has been effected.


If the testator has already had a will prepared by an attorney, and has signed it, a properly prepared holographic will has the power of negating the force and legality, of that previous will. But the testator "must" write at the beginning of the will that, "This particular holographic will makes all previously signed last wills and testaments invalid and without binding legal force. But, for the most part, expect court challenges to the holographic will if the previous will is substantially changed as to who get's what. You may tell your attorney in confidence, if you trust that person, that you are effecting a holographic will to cancel out a previous will, and the attorney cannot legally divulge that confidence. Regardless of how carefully a holographic will is prepared, it is crucial to realise that the laws on holographic wills vary from state to state and some jurisdictions will not accept unwitnessed holographic wills.

Things You'll Need

  • an ink pen
  • paper, preferably ruled
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