Thinking about handwriting your will?

 In Estate Planning

I have to admit, I did this once….I hand-wrote my own will the night before leaving on a big trip overseas.  I am pretty certain at the time (this was many years ago) that I had no clue that this was even a legal way to complete a will.  Digging through some old boxes I came across this old will that was drawn up in a frenzy the night before my flight and I realized a few things……

  1. Did young me know what a “handwritten” will was?  The formal name for this kind of a will is a Holographic will (no, this is not like a hologram from Star Wars, despite my husbands excitement) and is written entirely in the handwriting of the testator. Since this type of will is written by the testator they are not required to be witnessed like a formal “typed” will.  Something to keep in mind is that although you do not need a witness signature on the will, someone will still need to confirm that this is your writing when the time comes to execute the will.  This is to ensure that someone does not take advantage of your assets and try to pass their writing for yours.  The person who confirms your writing will need to sign a affidavit and that form will be witnessed by a notary or commissioner of oaths.  Again this extra step is to confirm that the will is 100% made up from the testators handwriting
  2. What was my experience with legal terminology?  Did I mention this was a long time ago?  I had not completed school at this point, to be honest I had not even figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up yet.  Years later, having gone to school and several years of working experience with estates and trusts I see my young self and realize that I did not know or understand as much as I thought.  Wills can be tricky things, and without a Lawyer to help you to articulate your wishes, you may end up going down a path you may have never expected. For instance, I named my mother as my executor…who was travelling with me on this trip….. that I was afraid of not coming back from.  Not only did I name my mother, I also failed to name a back-up executor.  Another thing I neglected to do was deal with my bequests efficiently, I gave my small assets away without any consideration for the situation if my beneficiaries were to predecease me.
  3. Would someone contest my will?  This is not something I thought of until I re-read this old will, I disposed of certain items a bit strangely with a certain intent in my mind that someone else may not have understood why I chose to do it that way.  This could lead to a lot of uncertainty and invalidation, there could have been a family member who questioned my will.  When this happens the executor must hire lawyers to defend the will and as you can imagine this is a lengthy process consuming both time and costs along the way.

As you can see, it is not as simple as one would think to write up a will that is clear, concise and disposes of the assets the way you truly intend.  I am happy that I have a newer will that was drafted by a lawyer, things are much neater and clearly thought out.  While this newer will is getting a bit old (stay tuned for the blog about the perils of updating my will) I feel much more reassured knowing that if something were to happen to me now, at least I have a will that was drafted by a professional.  It is better to have a handwritten will than no will at all, however once you have the chance to have your will formally drawn up I would recommend you take it….asap.

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