Are Handwritten Wills Legal in South Carolina?

By Beverly Bird

In many states, handwritten, or holographic, wills are either not legal, or accepted only if they meet certain requirements. In South Carolina, Title 62 Section 2 of the state’s legislative code leaves a gray area. If you make a handwritten will in South Carolina, it is not legal; however, if you make the will in one of the 24 states that do recognize handwritten wills, then you move to South Carolina, in most cases, it is valid.


Your handwritten will must adhere to probate and estate laws in whatever state it was written. Otherwise, South Carolina will not accept it. After you write out the terms of your bequests, be sure to place your signature on the will, as well as the day, month and year when you wrote it. Many people who handwrite their wills believe that the fact that the document is in their penmanship is enough for the court to be able to identify it as theirs, but this is not the case. It must be signed and dated just as a typewritten or printed will is.

Other State Requirements

The Free Library reports that 26 states recognized holographic wills as of 2009. Of these, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah require that only the portions including bequests and provisions and signature be in your handwriting and the rest of the will can be in preprinted format, according to 2010 information from JRank. However, the entire document must be in your handwriting if you made the will in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia or West Virginia. Arkansas also requires that three witnesses attest that the will is in your handwriting and they cannot be beneficiaries. Virginia and Tennessee require that two witnesses certify your handwriting. If you do not meet these state-specific requirements, your will is not valid either in that state or in South Carolina.

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It is always best to consult with an attorney concerning your handwritten will. You want to ensure that your wording is legally precise enough to achieve your intent and that the will doesn’t include some legal gaffe, making it invalid in the state in which you wrote it -- and by extension, in South Carolina, as well.


If you make your handwritten will in one of the states that recognizes them, mail it to yourself via certified mail, taping the seal. The envelope will bear the postmark of the state where you made it. Sign for it, keep it in a safe place, and assuming you met all of the state’s requirements when you wrote the will, it should be legal in South Carolina, as well.

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What States Accept Holographic Wills?


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The Legality of Wills in Different States

If a will is in printed format, signed by the testator, or the person who is making it, and is witnessed by at least two people, it is accepted as legal in virtually every state as long as the maker is an adult and of sound mind. The exception is Louisiana, which requires that every page of the will -- not just the last page -- be signed by the testator and notarized.

Tennessee Laws on Wills

Tennessee’s laws regarding wills are specific and exact. If your will is deemed invalid by the court for not meeting one of the state’s many requirements, your possessions will be distributed as though you had left no will at all. Although you can certainly write your own will, it is advisable that an attorney look at it to make sure it conforms to Tennessee’s statutes so your chosen beneficiaries receive exactly what you intended them to.

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.

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