Can wills be handwritten (known as holographic wills)?
A will must comply with your state’s requirements and formalities for admission to probate. While these laws vary by state, probate formalities require that the document be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses (also called disinterested witnesses). Some states, however, permit wills that are entirely handwritten by the testator. This is called a ‘holographic will’ and is acceptable even if no witnesses actually saw the testator sign the document.
Requirements for a holographic will
The main requirement for a holographic will is that it must be written entirely in the handwriting on the will-maker or testator. The probate court will decline the document if it is typewritten and in the case of a will that contains both typing and handwriting, the court will typically ignore the typewritten provisions. Note that the signing of a holographic will document does not need to be witnessed, however, some states require it to be dated. Despite this, a holographic will usually requires at least two people to testify that it was, in fact written in the original handwriting of the deceased.
States in which holographic wills are permitted
As of November 2010, the following states permit holographic wills to probate:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
In New York and Maryland, only an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces that is serving in an armed conflict or is a member of the merchant marines is permitted to draft a valid holographic will. This document is valid up until one year after they have finished serving active duty. Both these states will not accept any other holographic wills to probate.
Some states only allow holographic wills as foreign wills and not if they are drafted within the state. This means that if the document has been drafted in another states that permits holographic wills, it will be valid. The only states that will accept a holographic will to probate as a foreign will are Connecticut, Hawaii, South Carolina and Washington.
The following states do not accept holographic wills in any way, shape or form, even for active members of the military and as a foreign will:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island