Holographic Wills in Colorado

By Heather Frances J.D.

Your will can name someone to manage your estate, dictate who should inherit your property and even nominate guardians to look after your minor children when you die. However, your will cannot do any of these things if it is not valid under your state’s laws. Colorado allows holographic wills, but each must meet certain standards under Colorado law.

Holographic Will

A holographic will is handwritten by the person signing it -- the testator. Some states require the will to be entirely handwritten, but Colorado only requires that material portions of the will be handwritten by the testator for the will to qualify as “holographic.” Often, a holographic will is not witnessed, so there are no signatures of witnesses or a notary. In contrast, more formal wills often contain both signatures and notarization and are entirely typewritten or printed.

Colorado Rules

Colorado requires most wills to be in writing, signed by the testator or at his direction, and either notarized or witnessed by two witnesses. If a will doesn’t meet these requirements, Colorado courts will still recognize the will as valid if it is signed and the material portions are in the testator’s handwriting, whether or not it is witnessed. There must be some evidence that you intended the document to make a disposition of your property upon your death, and the evidence can be from the document itself.

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Writings Intended as Wills

Colorado law is generous when it comes to recognizing handwritten wills, even allowing “writings intended as wills.” If your will does not meet the standards for a standard will or holographic will, a Colorado court may still allow it to be used as a will if there is sufficient evidence you intended it to serve that purpose. The person submitting the will to the probate court must be able to prove that you intended the document to be your will and that you signed it.

Disadvantages

Even though you can handwrite a holographic will on your own, the Colorado Bar Association recommends you get help from a legal expert to draft your will, although a holographic will may be appropriate in certain circumstance -- for example, if you fear you will not have time to get your will formalized. Homemade wills often are ambiguous or defective, and such problems can delay the distribution of your estate and increase the costs of probate. An attorney or online legal document preparation service can help you make your wishes clear, providing a smoother probate process for the people you leave behind.

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References

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