Forms of Wills

By April Kohl

Several forms of will are recognized in the United States, with each individual state having its own rules on what constitutes a valid will, and under what circumstances. While a standard, attorney-prepared will that is typed up and signed before witnesses will usually be valid, other forms of wills have their own rules.

Several forms of will are recognized in the United States, with each individual state having its own rules on what constitutes a valid will, and under what circumstances. While a standard, attorney-prepared will that is typed up and signed before witnesses will usually be valid, other forms of wills have their own rules.

Standard Wills

A standard will is a formal document that is either handwritten, typed or printed from a computer. It will identify itself as a will, list the property to be bequeathed and the beneficiaries who will receive each item, and be signed at the bottom. In many cases, the document will be dated and declare any previous wills and codicils invalid, to prevent confusion over which is the “last will and testament.”

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Holographic Wills

A holographic will is a document that has been handwritten by the testator, who is the person making the will. A holographic will may have been signed by the testator, but it will lack some or all of the required number of witness signatures. As a result, its validity may be called into question. Some states do not recognize a holographic will as a valid will.

Self-Probating Wills

A self-probating will is a will that conforms to all the state's requirements for a valid will but in addition, it has been submitted to the probate court by the testator. The document will be accompanied by a signed affidavit by each of the witnesses declaring that the testator signed the will in front of them without any form of duress, he was competent at the time, and he asked the witnesses to act as witnesses.

Codicils

Codicils are not full wills in their own right. Instead, they are documents that alter existing wills in a small way, replacing only the specific portion of the will the codicil refers to and leaving the remainder intact. As a result, codicils are less expensive to create but may cause additional delays and expense when the will reaches probate, as both the will and the codicil must be probated.

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What Is a Legal Will in the State of North Carolina?

References

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Is a Hand-Written Notarized Will Legal?

Your will can direct the distribution of your property after your death, name someone you trust to manage your estate and even nominate a guardian for your minor children. But your will can't do any of that if it isn't valid in your state. Generally, a handwritten will is just as legally valid as a typed or printed will as long as it meets your state's standards.

Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

A handwritten or "holographic" will is a will written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or the person making the will, according to The Free Legal Dictionary. Not all U.S. states recognize a holographic will as valid, according to MedLawPlus. Those states that recognize handwritten wills usually allow the will to be unwitnessed as long as it is signed by the testator and is written in the testator's handwriting.

What Does a Last Will & Testament Look Like?

A last will and testament is almost always in writing. Since the person making the will can choose what kind of paper to use and whether to handwrite or type, a last will and testament may look like any other document. However, a will must contain certain elements to be legal in most states. Looking for these in a document can help you determine if the document is someone's last will and testament.

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