Is a Handwritten Change on a Will Legal?

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Whether a handwritten change on a will is valid depends on your state's laws. Some states allow handwritten changes on wills only if specific rules are followed, such as having witnesses sign the will after the changes are made. Other states hold that if any handwritten changes are made to a will, the entire will is invalid. If you want to amend your will but are unsure how to do it, consult an attorney to find out your state's specific requirements.

Holographic Wills

A holographic will is written completely by hand and only recognized in some states. In Texas, for example, if you write your own will completely by hand, it's legally valid without any witnesses. You can make any handwritten changes that you want later, as long as you sign and date the new changes. In Arizona, a valid holographic will must be signed and all of the material provisions written in your own handwriting, including instructions for disposing of your property. Any changes you make to the will later also are valid, as long as the changes are in your own handwriting.

Handwritten Changes to Typed Wills

To be valid, any changes you make to your will must be carried out according to your state's requirements. Some states allow changes to be made with proper signatures, while other states will ignore the changes entirely or invalidate the entire will. In Tennessee, for example, if you make any handwritten changes to your will, the will is void. In Texas, a typed will with handwritten changes is only valid if two witnesses signed the will at the time the changes were made, attesting that the testator -- the person who made the will -- made the changes himself. In Minnesota, the original will remains valid even if handwritten changes are made to it, but the handwritten changes are invalid and will be ignored.

Changes by Codicil

To avoid adding handwritten changes to a will, you can add or change terms to the will by creating amendments in a separate document called a codicil or by creating an entirely new will. Typically, a codicil must meet the same requirements as for original wills in your state. This usually involves signing the codicil and having two witnesses also sign the document. In Texas, a codicil can be used to add sections to a will, delete parts of a will or change sections of a will. Once the codicil has been signed and dated by the writer of the will and two witnesses, it automatically becomes part of the original will, whether or not it mentions that will at all. Anything in the codicil that conflicts with the previous will automatically supersedes it. Alternatively, if you want to make extensive changes to your will, you can write an entirely new one; creating a new will completely revokes all previous wills and codicils.

Requirements for a Valid Will

Amendments made to ya will must follow the same requirements that your state has for the original will. State's requirements for wills vary and may be quite stringent. In Florida, the person writing the will must place his signature at the end of the document, and two witnesses must sign the will in each other's presence and in the presence of the person who wrote the will. It's best if the witnesses are not named as beneficiaries in the will itself. In Tennessee, the will also must include a designated representative who will distribute the property after your death.