Various states have different requirements for accepting holographic or will that is entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Some states do not accept them at all. Texas does and is more liberal than other states in what it requires to make the will valid. However, if you are going to write your will yourself, speak with an attorney first. Estate laws can be complex, so even if you get the requirements of the will right, you might be overlooking the impact of some other law that will negatively affect your estate and beneficiaries.
A holographic will can be useful in an emergency situation when you have little time to provide for your loved ones. In Texas, it is considered valid, even if you write it on the back of an envelope.
Your holographic will must be entirely in your own handwriting and signed by you. It is not necessary to date it, but you can eliminate potential disputes later by doing so. Witnesses are not required. Just as with a typewritten will, you must be of sound mind, and not under duress, or unlawfully pressured into writing the will. You must be at least 18 years old unless you are married, were married or are an active member of the United States military or a member of the Maritime Service.
After your death, when your loved ones present your holographic will for probate, one of them will have to appear in court and testify that the handwriting and the signature are both yours. You can avoid this requirement by attaching a sworn statement to your will, making the will “self-proved.” The statement can be done at any point after you make the holographic will and it, too, can be handwritten. Simply attest that the will is indeed yours, that you met all Texas’s requirements when you made it and that you have not revoked it since. Sign the statement and attach it to your will.
You can save yourself a few dollars by handwriting your will, but if you do not have it reviewed by an attorney, you run the risk of costing your estate thousands of dollars later. If anything you write is ambiguous or unclear, court fees and attorney fees may later be necessary to clarify any issues. Even if you self-prove it, a disgruntled heir might try to contest it as being invalid. If you meet all the requirements, the heir probably won’t win his case, but defending against it could cost your beneficiaries a great deal of money.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.