States Where Holographic Wills Are Legal

By Salvatore Jackson

Generally speaking, a will must comply with a state’s probate formalities for admission to probate. While state laws vary, probate formalities require that a will be signed by the deceased person -- called the testator -- in the presence of at least two disinterested witnesses. However, some states permit the admission to probate of a will entirely handwritten by a testator. A handwritten will, called a “holographic will,” is admissible to probate even if no witnesses actually saw the testator sign.

Generally speaking, a will must comply with a state’s probate formalities for admission to probate. While state laws vary, probate formalities require that a will be signed by the deceased person -- called the testator -- in the presence of at least two disinterested witnesses. However, some states permit the admission to probate of a will entirely handwritten by a testator. A handwritten will, called a “holographic will,” is admissible to probate even if no witnesses actually saw the testator sign.

Requirements

The major requirement found throughout holographic will statutes is that a holographic will must be written entirely in the handwriting of the testator. Probate courts will not accept a typewritten will as a holographic will. In the case of a purported holographic will that is both typed and handwritten, such as a stationary will form that has been filled out, a probate court will typically ignore the typewritten provisions. The signing of a holographic will does not need to be witnessed, although some states require the holographic will to be dated. However, for admission to probate, a holographic will generally requires at least two individuals to testify that the holographic will was written in the handwriting of the decedent.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

States That Permit Holographic Wills

Roughly half of the states recognize holographic wills and will admit a holographic will to probate. While the number of witnesses varies, the admission of a holographic will to probate requires disinterested witnesses to testify that a holographic will is in the handwriting of the testator. As of November 2010, the states that permit holographic wills to probate include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

States That Permit Holographic Wills for Active Military Only

In New York and Maryland, a holographic will is only valid if drafted by an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces that is serving in an armed conflict, or a member of the merchant marines. A holographic will drafted by such individuals is valid until one year after they finish serving active duty. Both New York and Maryland will not accept any other holographic wills to probate, even under their foreign wills statute.

States That Only Admit Holographic Wills as Foreign Wills

Some states do not accept a holographic will to probate that is drafted within the state, but accept a holographic will to probate that has been drafted in another state that permits holographic wills under their foreign wills provision. As of November 2010, the states that will only accept a holographic will to probate as a foreign will are Connecticut, Hawaii, South Carolina and Washington.

States That Do Not Allow Holographic Wills

Other states do not accept holographic wills in any form, even as a foreign will or for active military members. These states are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What States Accept Holographic Wills?

References

Related articles

State of Maine Laws Regarding Last Will & Testament

A last will and testament sets out the wishes of its writer regarding the arrangement of his property after his death. Title 18-A of the Maine Revised Statutes contains the legal provisions relating to wills signed in the state. Any person who is at least 18 years of age may write a legally binding will. The writer of a will – known as the testator – must be of sound mind at the time of writing.

Arizona Wills & Testaments

By writing a will, a testator has peace of mind that his property and assets will be distributed according to his wishes after his death. He may also make provision in a will for the guardianship of his children. Title 14, Chapter 3 of the Arizona Revised Statutes contains the law relating to wills in the state. In essence, any individual over the age of 18 and of sound mind can write a will, provided that he complies with all other legal formalities.

Is it Legal to Handwrite a Will in Minnesota if You Get it Notarized?

A handwritten will may also be known as a holographic or olographic will. Some states recognize a handwritten will as valid even if it is not witnessed. In Minnesota, however, all wills must be in writing, signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two people who meet the minimum requirements for witnesses under Minnesota law. Without two witnesses, a handwritten will is not valid even if it is notarized, according to the Minnesota Probate Code.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Are Out-of-State Wills Considered in Florida Probate?

Out-of-state wills can be filed for consideration in Florida probate court, but they may not always be held valid and ...

Handwritten Last Will & Testaments

Each state has its own laws on what constitutes a valid last will and testament. In most states, a will must be in ...

Washington Law for Legal Wills

The state of Washington does not recognize unwitnessed wills, and only recognizes oral wills in very limited ...

Are Holographic Wills Legal?

A holographic will is a handwritten will. Many states recognize holographic wills, though some do so only under certain ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED