Writing a temporary will is really no different from writing one that you intend to be permanent. If it doesn’t meet all the requirements for your state, the fact that you only want its terms to apply for a short time won’t make it valid, and the court won’t accept it when you die. If you do meet the requirements, your temporary will remains valid until the date of your death unless you change or revoke it.
Why Write a Temporary Will?
By definition, a temporary will is one that expect to last for only a short period, until you can get a permanent will in place. Generally, people write a temporary will before traveling — for example, a journalist or aid worker who gets shipped out to a war zone, or after an accident where the medical prognosis is not clear. Each state has different requirements for making temporary wills but in many cases, a do-it-yourself will will be valid as long as it is signed and witnessed in accordance with state law. Remember to replace your temporary will once the emergency situation is passed. In the meantime, ensure that once it is written, your loved ones known where the temporary will is.
Read More: How to Make a Temporary Travel Last Will
Temporary Will Must Meet Validity Requirements
You must be of sound mind to write a will, meaning you understand who you’re giving your property to and your relationship with these individuals. In most states, you must be at least 18 years old. You must sign and date it, and you must have a required number of witnesses watch you sign it, then do so themselves. The number of witnesses you’ll need varies by state. Check with a local lawyer or call legal aid in your area to find out exactly what’s required where you live.
Many States Accept Handwritten Wills
If you want to write a temporary will because time is of the essence — maybe you just want to cover a few important issues until you have more time to create a complete estate plan — you may be able to create a holographic or handwritten will. Approximately half of all states recognize these. A holographic will allows you to do away with the witness requirement. The whole document must be in your handwriting; you can’t print something out from your computer then jot in pertinent details. When you’ve completed it, date and sign it. A holographic will should only be a temporary measure, however. If you die before you make a more traditional will, someone must substantiate to the court’s satisfaction that the handwriting is indeed yours.
Write a Codicil to Change Part of Will
If your permanent estate plan involves only limited changes, you can amend your will’s terms by adding a codicil. A codicil is a separate document that explains what you’re changing; it should be kept with the will, preferably attached to it to avoid confusion. It must be signed and witnessed just like a will, so it’s usually just as easy to revoke your temporary will and write a new, more permanent one.
Revoking a Will is Easy
Revoking your temporary will can be as simple as tearing it up, although ideally you would do so in front of witnesses. Another option is to take scissors to your signature. Without this, the will can’t possibly be probated because no court can accept it. You can then write another will to supersede the first one, but mention in the new one that it revokes the will you wrote temporarily.
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.