How Many Types of Legal Wills Exist?

by Laura Myers
Most wills have to be signed in order to be valid.

Most wills have to be signed in order to be valid.

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Various types of legal wills can enable a testator -- or will maker -- to dispose of his property after his death. Wills can also be used to appoint estate executors and legal guardians for any minor children. Though some wills are simple, other will types are more complicated and may require the assistance of an attorney.

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Professionally Prepared

A professionally prepared will is usually made by a lawyer, although it does not always have to be. For example, you can purchase books and software that will enable you to prepare your own will. It is important, however, that the will conforms to the laws of your state and that you fully understand it. This type of will is printed, signed by the testator and witnessed.


Many states allow a testator to use a fill-in-the-blanks type of will. This is called a statutory will, and it is made to conform with individual state requirements. Statutory wills are designed for those who have relatively straightforward estates.


A holographic will is one that is handwritten and signed by the testator. Generally, a holographic will is not witnessed, and after the testator’s death, the handwriting itself must be proven by witnesses who recognize the writing as that of the testator. Courts are often hesitant to accept holographic wills because of problems with verification.


A nuncupative will is an oral will made before witnesses. According to The Free Dictionary, a nuncupative will is not acceptable in most states, and states that do accept them will only do so when strict conditions are met. For example, the testator must specifically say to the witnesses that he intends to make an oral will and that he wishes them to witness it. Only personal property and not real estate may be disposed of in this way, and the nuncupative will can only be made when the testator’s death is imminent.


Sometimes the rules for making wills are relaxed for soldiers on active military duty or for sailors at sea. For example, FindLaw explains that in many jurisdictions this is the only circumstance in which a holographic or nuncupative will can be used to bequeath personal property. A soldier or sailor’s will becomes invalid after a certain period of time once the testator has left the service.