IS A HANDWRITTEN
WILL VALID IN TEXAS?
Texas is one of 26 states that allows a handwritten or “holographic” will. Although other states hold that handwritten wills are imprecise, ambiguous, and prone to forgery, studies have shown those opinions to be generally erroneous. For some people, a handwritten will done correctly is a far better option than having no will at all.
If a loved one has passed away leaving a handwritten will, you may want to find out if it is valid, especially if someone is attempting to challenge it. Or perhaps you are considering creating a holographic will and want to make sure it will be validated in probate.
Russell Manning Attorney has been helping clients with questions and solutions for wills and estate planning in Corpus Christi, South Texas, and The Coastal Bend area for more than 30 years. If you have questions or concerns about a handwritten will, call to schedule a time to discuss your will.
WHY ARE WILLS IMPORTANT?
When possible, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, referred to as “intestate,” the probate court decides what happens to your estate. The court distributes the intestate estates according to Texas intestate succession laws, dividing assets of the estate between spouses, children, parents, siblings, or grandparents. If you have no heirs as defined by Texas law, the state retains the estate’s assets. Any wishes you had about your legacy do not matter if you die without a will.
All wills and intestate estates are probated in Texas which makes the contents of wills and the assets of estates a matter of public record. The court process also allows heirs, creditors, and others to challenge the validity of wills.
WHAT TYPES OF WILLS ARE VALID IN TEXAS?
Texas law recognizes formal wills and holographic wills.
A formal will is drafted by an attorney. The signature of the person making the will, the “testator,” must be witnessed by two disinterested individuals over the age of 14 with appropriate mental capacity.
A handwritten or holographic will is written by the testator’s hand in full and signed by them. A holographic will does not require that the testator’s signature be witnessed.
WHAT IS A HOLOGRAPHIC WILL?
Testators must be either at least age 18, married, or in the military. They must be able to understand the purpose of the will, know the property they own, and understand their estate will be distributed as specified in the will. The testator must write the entire will in their own hand, sign it, and date it.
There are advantages to holographic wills. They can be created or rewritten at any time and do not need a witness. Subsequent wills revoke any prior wills.
The lack of witnesses may be a disadvantage to handwritten wills. There is no one to substantiate the validity of the will, including the testator’s mental capacity, should it be challenged in probate. If someone disputes the assumption that the will was written by the testator, the estate may need to pay for a handwriting expert to analyze and confirm its authenticity.
ESTATE PLANNING EXPERIENCE YOU CAN TRUST
A holographic will can be a useful tool if there is little time to draft a formal will due to injury or illness; however, a formal will may face fewer probate challenges. That could result in a more abbreviated probate process than a handwritten will may require.
If a loved one has left a handwritten will or if you are considering creating your own holographic will, you may have questions about ensuring its validity. There is content you should include in any will that could eliminate ambiguity and ensure its acceptance by the probate court after you pass.
At Russell Manning Attorney at Law, I answer estate planning questions for clients in Corpus Christi, South Texas, The Coastal Bend area, and Bee, Kleberg, Nueces, Live Oak, Jim Wells, Aransas, and Victoria counties. I may be able to help you, too.
If you want to learn more about holographic wills, call my office today. It is never too early to begin planning for the inevitable.