Is A Hand-Written or Holographic Will Enforceable?

Many people wonder if a hand-written will is valid.

The subject of the hand-written will comes up a lot in discussions with financial planning clients and others.  Probably because it’s one of the basic things we financial planners always ask about…”do you have a will?”  And it’s also one of the most common things missing from a person’s critical documents.  The majority of Americans don’t have one today.

I’ve written about the importance of a will and other basic estate planning documents before. Click here to read a previous post on this topic. 

So this came up again today with a client who has a friend who has never written a will.  The friend is in her 80’s and feels overwhelmed about the thought of going to an attorney to draft a legal document.  I can certainly understand why a lot of people don’t want to do something that is related to them dying.  It’s basically admitting to yourself and others that you’re going to die one day, which not many people enjoy thinking about.  (The same feeling you get when buying life insurance.)

My client asked me if her friend could just write something down on a piece of paper, and would that be valid.  I knew that all states recognize a will that is hand-written, as long as it’s witnessed, or notorized.  But what if it’s not witnessed or notorized?  I found out that this type of will is known as a HOLOGRAPHIC will.  No, that doesn’t mean it’s projected into the air so you can walk through it.

Black’s Law dictionary defines a HOLOGRAPHIC will as:  “a Will written entirely by the testator in his or her own handwriting and is not witnessed.”

Are hand-written or holographic wills recognized in your state?

Each state has it’s own rules about the type’s of wills it will recognize.  I found the list below on www.lawchek.com .  I am not an attorney, and I don’t give legal advice, and I strongly suggest that you check with your home state to verify their statutes.  But here’s what I found:

ALABAMA
A Holographic Will is not recognized as a valid Will since the state law requires that every Will be witnessed by at least two witnesses.

ALASKA
Alaska recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will, whether witnessed or not, if the signature and material provisions of the Will are in the testator’s handwriting.  (Code Section 13.11.160)

ARIZONA
A Holographic Will is recognized as a valid Will, whether or not it is witnessed, if the material parts of the Will are in the handwriting of the testator and it is signed by the testator. (Section 14-2503)

ARKANSAS
A Holographic Will is recognized as a valid Will where the entire Will and signature are in the handwriting of the testator. It must be established by 3 disinterested witnesses that the handwriting and signature are, in fact, that of the testator. (Section 28-25-104)

CALIFORNIA
A Holographic Will is recognized as a valid Will, whether or not witnessed, as long as the signature and material portions of the Will are in the testator’s own handwriting. A Holographic Will may be held to be invalid if it does not state the date of the execution and the date cannot be proven. A Holographic Will is also considered invalid if the testator lacked the required mental capacity to execute a Will. (Probate Code Section 6111)

COLORADO
A Holographic Will is recognized as valid, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and the material parts of the Will are in the handwriting of the testator.  (Section 15-11-502) A document that appears to have been intended to be a Will is also considered valid if it can be established by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to be a Will. (Section 15-11-503)

CONNECTICUT
Connecticut does not recognize a Holographic Will executed in its state.  However, a Holographic Will that was properly executed in a state which allows such Wills is valid.

DELAWARE
A Holographic Will is not recognized as a valid Will by this state because it does not meet the requirements the state has set forth for executing a Will. (Section 12-202)

FLORIDA
Florida does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. (Section 732.502)

GEORGIA
A Holographic Will is not recognized as a valid Will in the state of Georgia.

HAWAII
Holographic Wills are not recognized as valid Wills in this state. If a holographic Will was properly executed in a state recognizing their validity, then such a Will may be admitted to probate in Hawaii. (Section 560:3-409)

IDAHO
Idaho does recognize a Holographic Will, whether witnessed or not, as long as the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. (Section 15-2-503)

ILLINOIS
A Holographic Will is not recognized as a valid Will in this state.

INDIANA
Indiana does not have any state statutes which provide for Holographic Wills.

IOWA
Iowa does not recognize a Holographic Will because they are not executed in accordance with the laws on executing Wills.

KANSAS
Kansas does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

KENTUCKY
Kentucky does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. (Section 394.040)

LOUISIANA
Louisiana does recognize a Holographic Will if it is written by the testator and dated and signed by the testator. No other formalities are required. (Section 1588)

MAINE
Maine does recognize a Holographic Will, whether witnessed or not, as long as the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. (Section 2-503)

MARYLAND
The Holographic Will recognized as a valid Will must be made by a person serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and made outside of the United States. However, this Will is considered void one year after discharge from the Armed Forces. (Section 4-103)

MASSACHUSETTS
Massachusetts does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

MICHIGAN
Michigan will recognize a Holographic Will as valid if it is dated and the testator signed at the end of the Will. Material provisions of the Will must be in the testator’s handwriting. (Section 700.123)

MINNESOTA
Minnesota does not recognize a Holographic Will.

MISSISSIPPI
Mississippi does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. No witnesses are required. (Section 91-5-1)

MISSOURI
Missouri state law makes no reference to Holographic Wills.

MONTANA
Montana does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.

NEBRASKA
Nebraska does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will, however, it must have some indication of the date, either written or by some external evidence. If the holographic Will is the only writing found, it will be considered valid. (Section 30-2328)

NEVADA
Nevada does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will if the document is entirely written, dated and signed in the testator’s handwriting. There is no particular form required other than it be entirely written in the hand of the testator. It can be made either within or outside of Nevada and there is no requirement that it be witnessed. (Section 133.030,090,190)

NEW HAMPSHIRE
New Hampshire does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

NEW JERSEY
New Jersey recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will, whether or not it is witnessed, if the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator.  (Title 3B Chapter 3 Section 3)

NEW MEXICO
New Mexico does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

NEW YORK
A Holographic Will is considered a valid Will only in the limited circumstance where it is made by certain members of the U.S. armed forces while serving in a conflict or by another person who serves with or accompanies the member of the armed forces.  Such a Will must be entirely in the handwriting of the testator to be valid. Such a Will becomes invalid after 1 year after he or she ceases serving with the armed forces. (NY Law EPTA Section 3-2.2)

NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will as long as it is written entirely in the handwriting of the testator. Some immaterial printed matter will not invalidate the Will. This Will must be signed by the testator in his or her own handwriting and no witnesses are necessary. The Will must also have been found after the testator’s death, among the valuables, in a safe deposit box, or with a person, where it appears it was intended to be kept for safe keeping. (Section 31-3.4) Testimony is required to admit the Will into probate to prove the above requirements.

NORTH DAKOTA
A Will which does not comply with the formal Will execution provisions will be considered a valid Will, whether or not witnessed, if the signature and material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. (Uniform probate code section 2-503)

OHIO
Ohio does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. A Will must be executed and witnessed in conformity with Section 2107.03.

OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. (Section 84-54)

OREGON
Oregon does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

PENNSYLVANIA
Pennsylvania does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

RHODE ISLAND
Rhode Island does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will.

SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. However, certain exceptions are made for Holographic Wills which are validly executed in a state which allows such Wills, or when an out-of-state probate proceeding is involved.  (Section 62-2-303, 408, 502, 505)

SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will, whether it is made within or out of the state and whether or not it is witnessed, if the signature and material portions are in the testator’s handwriting. Intent that the document is the testator’s Will can be established by extrinsic evidence. (Section 29A-2-502)

TENNESSEE
Tennessee recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will. The Will is valid if it is in the testator’s handwriting, whether witnessed or not, but the testator’s handwriting must be proven by two witnesses. (Section 32-1-105)

TEXAS
Texas recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will. The Will must be entirely written by the testator, but is not required to be witnessed. It may be proven in one of two ways: The testator may attach an affidavit stating that this written instrument is his or her last Will and that he or she was competent to make the Will and that the Will has not been revoked. (Probate Code Section 60) If the testator does not self-prove the Will, then at the time of death it must be proved by the testimony of two witnesses as to the handwriting of the testator. (Probate Code Section 84)

UTAH
Utah recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will, whether or not it is witnessed, as long as the signature and material provisions of the Will are in the handwriting of the testator. (Section 75-2-503)

VERMONT
Vermont does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will since it does not meet the execution requirements set forth by state law. (Section 14-5)

VIRGINIA
Virginia recognizes a Holographic Will as a valid Will as long as the Will is written entirely in the handwriting of the testator. It is not necessary that it be acknowledged or witnessed. At time of death, the proof of handwriting must be established by at least two disinterested witnesses. (Section 64.1-49)

WASHINGTON
Washington does not recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will since it is not executed according to the formalities set forth by state law. However, the state may recognize a Holographic Will that was executed in states where it was deemed legally executed at the time. (Section 11.12.020)

WEST VIRGINIA
West Virginia does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will. The Will must be entirely in the writing of the testator and be signed by the testator. The Will must evidence an intent that the document is to act as a Will, and the signature must be intended as a signature to a Will. No acknowledgment or witnesses are necessary.  (Ch. 41, Art. 1, Section 3)

WISCONSIN
Wisconsin does not recognize a Holographic Will because it is not executed according to state law. However, a Holographic Will executed in a state where it was considered valid at the time will be recognized. (Section 853.05)

WYOMING
Wyoming does recognize a Holographic Will as a valid Will and there is no requirement that it be witnessed. (Section 2-6-113)

If a state does recognize a holographic will, they will probably require that at least two people can verify that the handwriting is that of the deceased person.

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