Holographic will

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A holographic will is a will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator. Normally, a will must be signed by witnesses attesting to the validity of the testator's signature and intent, but in many jurisdictions, holographic wills that have not been witnessed are treated equally to witnessed wills and need only to meet minimal requirements in order to be probated:

Holographic wills are common and are often created in emergency situations, such as when the testator is alone, trapped, and near death. Jurisdictions that do not generally recognize unwitnessed holographic wills will accordingly grant exceptions to members of the armed services who are involved in armed conflicts and sailors at sea, though in both cases the validity of the holographic will expires at a certain time after it is drafted.

Holographic wills often show that the requirements for making a valid will are minimal. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the shortest will in the world as "Vse zene," (Czech, "all to wife"), written on the bedroom wall of a man who realized his imminent demise and made a swift attempt to distribute his chattels before expiring.[1] It clearly meets the minimum requirements, being his own work and no one else's. On 8 June 1948 in Saskatchewan, Canada, a farmer named Cecil George Harris who had become trapped under his own tractor carved a will into the tractor's fender. It read, "In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris." The fender was probated and stood as his will. The fender is currently on display at the law library of the University of Saskatchewan College of Law.[2]

Law in various jurisdictions[edit]

United States[edit]

The following states recognize holographic wills made within the state, though witnessing requirements vary: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.[3]

The following states do not recognize holographic wills made within the state, but recognize such wills under a "foreign wills" provision (i.e., the will was drafted wholly within, and in accordance with and is valid under the laws of, another jurisdiction): Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin.[3] [4]

Maryland and New York recognize holographic wills only if made by members of the Armed Forces. In both states any such will is void one year after that member's discharge from service “unless the testator … does not then possess testamentary capacity” under Maryland law (Md. Estates and Trusts Code Ann. § 4-103(b) (2013)) and for one year after the testator regains testamentary capacity under New York law (NY Est Pow & Trusts L § 3-2.2(d) (2012)).[3]

Indiana and Missouri have no statutes making references to holographic wills.[3]

All other states not listed do not recognize a holographic will in any instance.

Selected excerpts from state statutes in United States jurisdictions that recognize holographic wills: (NOTE: The list is not exhaustive)

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, unwitnessed holographic wills were valid in Scotland until the Requirements of Writing Scotland Act 1995 which abolished the provision; such wills written after 1 August 1995 are now invalid in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.[14] Holographic wills need not be signed, when subscription to the writing appearing on the last page of such sheet is "your loving mother," or words to the effect which designates the family or personal relationship, if it is a material consideration, the signature is sufficient[clarification needed]. This is most commonly found in documents written in emergency situations, or those prepared by individuals who have not consulted legal advice.

In popular literature[edit]

A holographic will is the subject of John Grisham's 1999 legal thriller The Testament, and also his 2013 novel Sycamore Row.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.willswithoutpain.com/diy.html
  2. ^ On Campus News, January 23, 2009: The Last Will and Testament of Cecil George Harris
  3. ^ a b c d Laws on holographic wills by State
  4. ^ Or. Rev. Stat. § 112.255.
  5. ^ a b La. C.C.P. Art. 2883 (2011). 
  6. ^ Texas Probate Code, Section 60.
  7. ^ Texas Probate Code, Section 84c.
  8. ^ a b c Utah Code Ann. § 75-2-502 (2011). 
  9. ^ Utah Code Ann. § 75-2-511 (2011). 
  10. ^ Utah Code Ann. § 75-2-513 (2011). 
  11. ^ Va. Code Ann. § 64.1-49.1 (2011). 
  12. ^ a b Va. Code Ann. § 64.1-49 (2011). 
  13. ^ Va. Code Ann. § 64.1-55 (2011). 
  14. ^ Wills and Probate: a consumer publication. London: Consumers' Association; p. 72

Further reading[edit]