Some believe that a simple handwritten “holographic” will is all they need. But while a hastily scrawled missive may do in an emergency, it cannot take the place of a formal will.
It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney prior to preparing a will. They can help you ensure your will is enforceable and does what you want it to do.
What Is a Holographic Will?
A holographic will is one that is handwritten and signed by the deceased person (testator). Holographic wills can be very brief, and the testator can write them on anything.
Some interesting and unusual examples of holographic wills include one written on a tractor fender by a dying man, one written on a blood-spattered suicide note, and one that had to be deciphered from pen scratches because the blind woman who wrote it did not realize her pen was out of ink.
Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Texas?
While not all states will enforce a holographic will, Texas law recognizes them as valid as long as they meet certain conditions.
To be enforced, the will needs to be entirely handwritten and signed by the person. It is best to also date a holographic will, but it can be enforceable even without a date. Just like any other will, the person must have the mental capacity to make the will and must intend for the will to dispose of their property after death.
Are Holographic Wills a Good Idea?
Even though a handwritten will in Texas is enforceable, it is not the best way to make sure your final wishes are honored.
Handwritten wills in Texas face challenges much more frequently than other types of wills. Those who stand to gain or lose from the will may dispute things like the authenticity of the will, whether the person was competent at the time they prepared it, and whether the person intended it to be their final will.
In addition to being vulnerable to validity challenges, a holographic will in Texas may contain errors that prevent the court from enforcing it in the way you intended. For example, the will may:
- Have ambiguities that make it difficult for the court to interpret and enforce;
- Not dispose of the entire estate, leaving the distribution of some assets unresolved;
- Not outline contingencies to account for changes like the death of a beneficiary; and
- Be difficult to read.
Further, some states do not enforce holographic wills at all. So if you end up moving to another state later in life, you may not be able to count on the courts enforcing your will. And even if the other state does enforce holographic wills, it may have different requirements than Texas.
What Should I Have Instead of a Holographic Will?
If you want to make sure that your final wishes are carried out the way you intend, it is important to consult with an attorney who can help you craft a thorough estate plan.
Having an attorney draft your will can help you avoid many of the pitfalls discussed above. A good estate attorney will be sure to use language that will not be misinterpreted by a court. They will also help you think about all of your assets and beneficiaries and prevent you from accidentally leaving anything out.
Further, they will make sure your will includes important provisions regarding things like:
- Who your administrator will be;
- Who you want to have care for minor children;
- Who you want to be responsible for heathcare and other decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated;
- Who you want to name as contingent beneficiaries in case one or more of your beneficiaries dies before you do;
- What will happen if you sell assets or purchase new assets;
- How you will devise individual pieces of personal property;
- What will be left to children and grandchildren that may not have been born yet at the time you make your will;
- Whether you want to place conditions on anyone’s inheritance; and
- Who will manage funds inherited by minor children or incapacitated individuals.
An attorney can also attest to your soundness of mind if someone contests it.
Call the Curley Law Firm Today
If you would like to learn more about handwritten wills in Texas and other forms of estate planning, consider scheduling a consultation with Adam Curley of the Curley Law Firm.
Adam is an experienced estate planning attorney in Houston, Texas. He is active in both the legal and civic communities in Houston and cares about its citizens. You can rely on Adam to help you craft a comprehensive estate plan that carries out your final wishes.