23 Oct What is a Holographic Will? Justin Crain, Partner
In Texas, a will written ENTIRELY in your own handwriting is called a holographic will. It is essential to understand that every single word of this type of Will must be written only in your handwriting. Texas courts have taken an approach that directs that when there is a handwritten Will, the court is to disregard all words not written in the person’s own handwriting. This means that the court would try to determine the Will’s intent by reading and interpreting only the portions of the will that were handwritten by the hand of the person themselves.
It may not be hard to write down a few thoughts in your own handwriting, but what is difficult is to properly draft a Holographic Will that complies with all of the requirements of the law while also accomplishing your intent. Holographic wills are not recommended because there are many pitfalls to acting as your own attorney. Drafting a will without understanding the legal effect of each word and phrase that you include, or a word or phrase that you may leave out will cause unknown and unintended results.
When you attempt to write your own Will without understanding the law and how your writing will be interpreted, there is the possibility that what is written may not legally be considered a Last Will and Testament. If the writing is not considered a legal Will, your estate will be distributed according to what the court decides instead of what you intended. There is a possibility that you will leave out important words and phrases such as wording that could shorten the probate process, remove requirements for bond, allow for quick sale of real estate, and much more. It is also possible that words that are used may create requirements for additional steps during the probate process such as proving that a number of specific gifts were distributed, including language that the court determines will require every person named to receive all the required legal notices under the law, or language that creates a requirement for official accountings to be submitted to the court that might not have otherwise been required. At the end of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know.
When you are attempting to accomplish something as crucial as stating your final wishes, hiring a qualified attorney can make the difference between leaving a legacy or leaving a disaster for the loved ones that survive you. Short cuts in estate planning may sound like a good idea at first, but the ramifications of short cut, like a holographic will, end up costing your estate a lot of time and money to correct.
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