Holographic Will: How to Create a Legally Valid One

A holographic will is a handwritten will that’s not signed by witnesses.
Dalia Ramirez
By Dalia Ramirez 
Updated
Edited by Tina Orem
Person writing

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A holographic will is a will that is handwritten and signed by the author (the testator). Holographic wills are not validated by witnesses or notary signatures

Cornell Law School. Holographic will. Accessed Nov 1, 2023.
. They are not legally valid in every state, and some states only allow them in specific circumstances, such as active military duty.

Holographic wills are free to make and can be written in an emergency, though they’re typically not the most secure option for estate planning. A holographic will can be harder to verify during probate, which is the court-supervised process for validating a person’s will and distributing their assets after death.

You can make a will without a lawyer, for free or inexpensively, using an online template or will-writing software and by following your state’s requirements for validation.

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How to create a holographic will

Each state has its own rules about what makes a holographic will, but most require that you follow these steps:

  1. Write the entire will in your own handwriting, with no typed components or other features on the page. Write legibly to ensure that others can easily read the document. 

  2. State clearly that it is your will, such as by writing “This is my last will and testament” at the beginning.

  3. Name your executor, who is the person who will administer your estate during probate and distribute your assets. For example, you can write, “I name Sarah Smith as the independent executor of my estate.” In some states, such as Texas, you may need to add that you want your executor to “serve without bond,” which may help avoid certain court fees

    Texas Law Help. Do-It-Yourself Guide for Handwritten Wills. Accessed Nov 1, 2023.
    .

  4. Include the same basic components as a standard will, such as naming the beneficiaries for your assets and naming a guardian for minor children.

  5. Sign and date the document. Your own signature is the only verification for a holographic will.

What is the purpose of a holographic will?

A holographic will is the simplest way to designate where your property should go after you die. It’s a method to make sure your loved ones know your final wishes without a lawyer, witness or notary signature.

Holographic wills aren’t legally valid in all U.S. states, and they can be difficult to verify in probate. The court will need to verify your handwriting, for example, and without witness signatures, the probate court (or a family member, friend or stranger) might question the circumstances of the will, such as whether you wrote it with undue influence or whether it was your final version.

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Access to attorney support

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Where is a holographic will valid?

Pros and cons of a holographic will

Advantages

Drawbacks

Doesn’t require a lawyer.

Not legally recognized in some states.

Doesn’t require a witness or notary signature.

May be more likely to be contested during probate.

Can be the only option for estate planning in an emergency situation.

Must be handwritten, which can increase the likelihood of mistakes and make changes difficult.

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