Is a Handwritten Will Legal?

By A.L. Kennedy

A handwritten or "holographic" will is a will written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or the person making the will, according to The Free Legal Dictionary. Not all U.S. states recognize a holographic will as valid, according to MedLawPlus. Those states that recognize handwritten wills usually allow the will to be unwitnessed as long as it is signed by the testator and is written in the testator's handwriting.


Those states that recognize holographic wills generally require the signature on the will and "material portions" of the will to be in the testator's handwriting, according to MedLawPlus. These states permit you to use a preprinted form to guide you, or to write out the will entirely in your own handwriting. Some states, such as Louisiana, permit holographic wills only if they are written entirely in the testator's handwriting, with no other handwriting or printing on the pages of the will, according to MedLawPlus. A handwritten will must always be signed and dated and should state that it is the testator's last will and testament, according to MedLawPlus. A holographic will may be made by anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind, according to FindLaw, as long as the state permits holographic wills.


Whether a will is handwritten or typed, most states that accept handwritten wills will also accept a handwritten amendment to a will, according to the American Bar Association. Known as a codicil, an amendment is usually used when only one specific provision in a will needs to be changed. For example, a codicil may be used to add or remove the name of a child who has been born or has died. A handwritten codicil must be signed and dated just like a handwritten will and should be kept with the will, according to the American Bar Association.

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Although most states that allow handwritten wills do not require them to be witnessed, having at least two witnesses to watch you sign your handwritten will provides additional evidence to support the will's validity, according to FindLaw. If you choose to have witnesses, do not sign your will until your witnesses are watching and know it is your will that you are signing. Witnesses should sign their name beneath your signature, write the date and write a brief statement that they know this is your will and watched you sign it, according to FindLaw.


States that recognize handwritten or holographic wills usually do not require these wills to be notarized, according to MedLawPlus. However, some states recognize notarization, when combined with the signatures of witnesses, to make a will "self-proving," or able to be submitted to the probate court without quizzing the witnesses as to whether their signatures are genuine. If you choose to have a handwritten will notarized, you and your witnesses should all sign and date the will in the notary's presence before the notary notarizes the will, according to MedLawPlus.

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Related articles

Is a Self Made Will Legal if Notarized?

A self-made will is legal if it meets your state's requirements for wills. All states have requirements that include having at least two witnesses and signing your will yourself. Some states allow you to notarize your will to make it "self-proving," which moves it through probate faster. However, as of December 2010, only Louisiana requires a will to be notarized.

Is a Hand-Written Notarized Will Legal?

Your will can direct the distribution of your property after your death, name someone you trust to manage your estate and even nominate a guardian for your minor children. But your will can't do any of that if it isn't valid in your state. Generally, a handwritten will is just as legally valid as a typed or printed will as long as it meets your state's standards.

Are Notarized Wills Legal?

In all 50 U.S. states, at least two witnesses are required to make a will valid, according to MedLawPlus. However, only Louisiana requires a will to be notarized in addition to being signed by two witnesses. Although a notary may sign a will as a witness in most other states, the fact of notarization is not enough to make a will valid, according to FindLaw.

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