Folks are always asking whether a hand written will is a valid document. This is known as a holographic will. In most cases, a person writes in their own hand a document dealing with disposition of their assets at the time of their death. The admissibility of such a will can vary from state to state.For example, in the state of Maryland a hand written document of this type must be witnessed by two independent persons at the same time that the document is signed by the maker. If it is notarized or not witnessed at the time of the signing, the holographic will not be effective which will thwart the intent of the testator. In many cases, the provisions of the hand written will may be crossed out or even omitted from the document thereby rendering it invalid or useless.
Each state will have a different set of rules and laws that pertain to a hand written will. It is always best to seek advice from a legal professional when preparing such an important document. One may be unaware of how to provide for family members and their descendents should they meet with an untimely death. Frequently assets have been directed to specific individuals in the document which by operation of law or beneficiary designation are directed to another party. This can create confusion and result in a family feud that could ultimately lead to litigation. It may be best to die intestate [without a will] since most states have laws which in essence craft a will for those dying without preparing a valid will. A major hurdle that one must deal with is documentation that the hand written will was actually written by decedent. Many cases have been fought over this subject.
If there is a unique disposition of all or a portion of the estate pursuant to the terms of a holographic will where one family member is favored to the detriment of others, then there is a strong likelihood that the document will be contested. If the will is poorly written or is unclear then litigation is likely to ensue. It doesn’t make sense to embroil your family in controversy when hiring a lawyer to handle your end of life planning can help to eliminate a possible family feud.