Is an Unwitnessed Will Legal in Oklahoma?

by Joseph Nicholson
Oklahoma recognizes unwitnessed wills if they are in the handwriting of the testator.

Oklahoma recognizes unwitnessed wills if they are in the handwriting of the testator.

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Though Oklahoma generally requires two witnesses for a valid will, an unwitnessed will can be legal in Oklahoma under certain circumstances. For example, an individual that has the capacity to create an enforceable will under Oklahoma law can create a handwritten will that is exempted from the normal attestation requirements, and in some situations an oral will can also be valid. Oklahoma’s laws on the validity of wills are codified in Title 84 of the Oklahoma statutes.

Capacity

Anyone over 18 years of age and of sound mind has the legal capacity to create a binding will under Oklahoma law. To demonstrate sound mind, an individual for whom a guardian or conservator has been appointed must execute a will in the presence of a state judge. Everyone else who meets the basic capacity requirements is able to dispose of their property by any lawful means.

Holographic Will

A will written entirely by hand is called a holographic will. Oklahoma recognizes a handwritten will as valid if it is dated and signed by the maker of the will. It cannot be transcribed by anyone else or include any handwriting from any other person. A holographic will that meets these requirements need not be witnessed.

Holographic Will in Foreign Language

The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided whether a handwritten will in a foreign language satisfied the requirements of a valid holographic will in the 1946 case of Heupel v. Heupel. Looking to Oklahoma laws on recording documents, as well as the laws of nearby states, the court concluded that a handwritten will in a foreign language is valid if it otherwise meets the requirements for a valid holographic will.

Nuncupative Will

An oral, or nuncupative, will, usually made by person contemplating imminent death and without the means to create a written will, is exempted from the usual written attestation requirements of Oklahoma. But apart from the fact that a nuncupative will need not include formal written attestations from witnesses, it is still technically a witnessed will because two persons must verify its authenticity. As of November 2010, a nuncupative will also cannot bequeath an estate valued in excess of $1,000.