You may have heard the famous legal argument that if you want an agreement to be honored, you should get it in writing.
When it comes to estate law in Texas, this argument is taken to a whole different level. A handwritten, or holographic will, is considered valid in the Lone Star State. That said; you should understand what makes a handwritten will valid in Texas and what are the pitfalls of having a handwritten will.
How Can I Make a Valid Holographic Will?
The primary rule of a holographic will is that it has to be written completely in your handwriting and signed by the maker of the will. Any deviation from this "wholly in your handwriting rule" and the will is invalid. The will can be written on anything, including a napkin or stationary, but the maker of the will must have testamentary intent and the mental capacity at the time the will is made.
Besides being in your own handwriting with your signature; holographic will must be written by:
- An individual of sound mind
- An individual who is at least eighteen years of age
If you are under such age, you must have been lawfully married or be a member of the armed forces of the United States or of an auxiliary thereof or of the Maritime Service.
Do There Have to Be Witnesses for a Handwritten Will?
Because there is no requirement that a holographic will be witnessed when the maker signs it, special proof is required when it is presented for probate upon the maker’s death. There must be specific proof that the handwriting and signature indeed belong to the maker of the will.
As an alternative, you can attach a sworn statement (self-proving affidavit) that conforms to the requirements of Texas law. This allows the will to be self-proved and minimizes disputes.
Do I Need a Will and Estate Planning Lawyer?
Even if you meet all of the requirements to have a valid, holographic will, problems can still arise with these documents. If the proper language is not included, you could end up complicating probate for your executor and beneficiaries, and costing you more money in the long run instead of having your will properly drafted, witnessed, attested and self-proved.
Amarillo law firm Stockard, Johnston, Brown & Netardus, P.C. does not offer estate planning services. However, there are a number of qualified, reliable lawyers in the Texas Panhandle who can help make sure your final wishes are honored.