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.

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.”

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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

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 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.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
A Basic Last Will & Testament


Related articles

How to Make Changes to Wills in Georgia

If you live in Georgia, you may make changes to your will by executing a codicil. A codicil must comply with Georgia law regarding will formalities. In other words, a codicil requires a mentally competent "testator," or will maker, and two mentally competent witnesses to be valid in Georgia.

How to Prove a Will Is Genuine

A last will and testament is the final word of a deceased individual in which he directs the disposition of his assets. The will may be old and crumpled and found inside a drawer somewhere or in pristine condition in a safe-deposit box. Provided a will meets statutory requirements, it is assumed genuine until and unless challenged before a court. The probate court has jurisdiction to accept or deny a will presented for probate.

Reasons to Contest a Will

It is not enough to be unhappy with the way the property of an estate is distributed in a will to contest its validity, but it's an important start. You must have a connection to the maker of a will or the property distributed therein in order to have the standing to contest the will in a probate court. But to successfully contest the will's validity, you will have to show at least one of several recognized grounds for overturning a will.

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

Related articles

The Requirements for Last Wills Accepted in All 50 States

Laws regarding last wills vary slightly among all states, but in general, a will must meet certain requirements to be ...

How to Add an Addendum to a Will

Adding an addendum to a will requires a document called a codicil. If drafted appropriately, the codicil will be ...

How to Invalidate a Last Will & Testament

A will contains an individual's final wishes. As a result, any attempt to invalidate it must meet a high standard of ...

How to Prove a Will When Your Subscribing Witnesses Are All Dead or Unavailable

Wills can be an effective estate planning tool for distributing property after your death. But, for its terms to be ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED