Can you handwrite a will? Technically, yes. But SHOULD you handwrite a will? No. Creating a will is an essential step in planning for the future, ensuring that your assets and wishes are properly distributed after your passing. Fans of HBO’s popular show Succession, learned this in a shocking episode in season 4. With the unexpected death of one of the main characters, and a Will with many handwritten amendments, the family was left stunned and unsure of how to interpret what the true intentions were of the deceased.
While a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, may seem like a convenient option, it is important to understand its limitations. Here are several reasons why a handwritten will may not provide the level of protection and certainty you need.
Why You Shouldn’t Handwrite a Will
- Lack of Legal Formalities: One of the primary reasons a handwritten will may fail to protect you adequately is the absence of legal formalities. In many jurisdictions, wills must meet specific requirements to be considered valid. These requirements typically include the need for witnesses who can attest to the authenticity of the document. Handwritten wills often lack these formalities, making it easier for interested parties to challenge their validity.
- Interpretation and Ambiguity: Handwritten wills are often less precise and more prone to interpretation errors. The absence of clear language or legal terminology can lead to confusion and disputes among beneficiaries. Minor mistakes or unclear instructions can have significant consequences, potentially resulting in unintended distribution of assets or even legal battles among family members.
- Incomplete or Missing Information: A handwritten will may not capture all the necessary details required for a comprehensive estate plan. When drafting a will, it is important to consider various scenarios, account for potential contingencies, and ensure all relevant assets are accounted for. Handwritten wills are more likely to overlook important elements, such as provisions for alternate beneficiaries, guardianship arrangements for minor children, or instructions regarding specific digital assets.
- Limited Expertise and Legal Knowledge: Creating a well-structured and legally sound will often requires professional assistance. Estate planning attorneys have the necessary expertise to navigate the complex legal landscape, ensuring that your will adheres to the applicable laws and regulations. Handwritten wills, on the other hand, may lack the guidance of legal professionals, leaving room for errors, omissions, or unintended consequences.
- Increased Susceptibility to Challenges: The informality of a handwritten will can make it more susceptible to challenges in court. Interested parties, dissatisfied beneficiaries, or potential heirs may question the validity of the document, leading to lengthy and costly legal proceedings. Without the safeguards provided by properly executed and legally binding wills, the distribution of your assets and the realization of your intentions may be compromised.
While it may be convenient to handwrite a will, or write in changes to a previous will, it often falls short in terms of providing the necessary protection and legal certainty. To ensure your wishes are accurately captured and legally enforceable, it is advisable to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process of creating a comprehensive and valid will. By taking this step, you can secure the future of your loved ones and minimize the potential for disputes or legal complications.
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.