A holographic will is a Last Will & Testament created entirely by the testator. In other words, it’s a will created in the absence of witnesses. Most testators create a conventional will. However, other testators, facing their end, often express their last wishes by drafting a holographic will.
Examples of Holographic Wills
Imminent death forces people to write the vast majority of holographic wills. For instance, the Guinness World Book of Records recognized a Czech man as having the shortest will in the world. Sick for weeks, he realized his death was near. He wrote Vše ženě (or everything to wife) on his bedroom wall before passing on.
Or consider the case of a Saskatchewan farmer. In 1948, a tractor accident left him dying beneath his rig. With his remaining energy, he scrawled a message that read, “In case I die … I leave all to the wife…”. Saskatchewan courts probated the metal panel and determined it to be a valid will.
Are Holographic Wills Legal in America?
It depends on the state. Twenty-six states recognize holographic wills to varying degrees. Eight states (Connecticut, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington State, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Iowa) do NOT recognize holographic wills made within its borders. However, they do recognize documents made in states or countries where holographic wills are legal.
Two states – Maryland and New York State – do NOT recognize most holographic wills. However, they make exceptions for members of the Armed Forces. Two other states – Missouri and Indiana – have no statutes on their books concerning holographic wills. This fact can leave a holographic will’s legitimacy in the hands of a skeptical court.
Twelve states do NOT recognize holographic wills, period. They are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
How Hard is it to Create a Holographic Will?
It’s not hard at all. In fact, many people, not knowing how to create a proper Last Will & Testament, already have holographic wills. To create a legitimate holographic will, a testator must prove they created it. They can satisfy this condition by doing it in their handwriting, and signing it.
Second, the testator must have the intellectual ability to write the will. If the testator isn’t a legal minor, courts presume this condition to be true, absent evidence to the contrary.
And third, the testator must wish to distribute their estate to a beneficiary or beneficiaries. However, their intentions must be clear, or the courts might not accept the holographic will to be valid.
Should People Write Holographic Wills?
We advise strongly against it. First of all, holographic wills aren’t legal in all jurisdictions. But even if they are, the courts can easily rule these documents to be invalid. One of the most common tripping points – handwriting. If a judge determines that the testator’s writing is illegible, that’s enough to invalidate a holographic will.
Secondly, a lack of clarity regarding beneficiaries can derail a holographic will. Like a conventional will, a testator’s intent must be clear. If it isn’t, the courts can strike down certain provisions.
Individuals should only write a holographic will if it’s an emergency. If a testator has significant assets or dependants, they should already have a conventional Last Will & Testament in place.
Don’t forget that you can easily make a will online these days. We have reviewed the best online will makers and summarized all the pros and cons for each, so you can make your decision quicker and easier.