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.

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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.

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Types of Last Will & Testaments


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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 writing, but whether it is typed or handwritten generally doesn't matter if the will meets all the other requirements for validity in the state. About half of states, however, recognize a special type of handwritten will.

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 proof to succeed in court. Further, some wills contain a no-contest clause in which any beneficiary who attempts to contest the will's validity automatically forfeits the share of property bequeathed to him under the will. To challenge a will's validity, you must follow the probate laws of the state handling the decedent's estate.

Montana Law Governing Last Wills & Testaments

Montana's Uniform Probate Code governs wills throughout the state. Like other states, Montana mandates specific formalities that must be adhered to during the making of a will. Formalities are important procedures that give wills legal effect; without them, a will maker — called a "testator" — could make a will that is contrary to his actual intent.

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