Can You Save Money with a Handwritten Will?
Does a handwritten will sound like a good option for you? It’s difficult to plan for the disposition of your property after your death. Most people don’t want to think about this topic. Fewer still are motivated to make an appointment with an attorney for a will. Some people will decide that they’ll just write out a will and avoid the expense of an attorney. That can work, but it’s probably not a good idea for most people.
If you have questions about a will or any aspect of estate planning or probate, call our office at 800-929-1725. One of our experienced probate and estate planning attorneys can explain the best way to plan for the disposition of your estate. We have convenient offices in Wharton, El Campo and Richmond, Texas.
Question: If I only have a handwritten will, is that a valid will?
Attorney Philip Hundl’s Answer: A handwritten will or “holographic will” may be a valid will that can be probated after your death, if certain requirements are met. The holographic will must be wholly or entirely in your handwriting. Before the will can be “probated” or made effective by a probate court, two witnesses familiar with your handwriting must testify that the handwriting in the will is your handwriting. In my experience, coordinating two witnesses that are familiar with another’s handwriting to testify in court can be time consuming and challenging for a lawyer.
A handwritten will, like a formal will, must still identify your spouse and children, if any, your property, and the way you want your property, both personal and real, to pass after your death. Although a handwritten will may seem simple and easy it is typically more costly to probate than a will that is “self-proved” or signed and executed under all the formalities of the Texas Estates Code. A testator, or the person making the will, may make his will “self-proved” by including an affidavit stating that the will is in fact his last will; he is at least eighteen years of age; that he was of sound mind; and that he has not revoked this will. It also contains a statement of the witnesses.
As an alternative to the self-proving affidavit, a will may be simultaneously executed, attested, and made self-proved before a notary. A will that is “self-proved” does not require the testimony of witnesses regarding the testator or the events surrounding the execution of the “self-proved” will, and therefore, takes less time and expense to probate.
Most Frequent Problems with a Handwritten Will
The most frequent problem with a holographic will is the failure to name an executor and to provide for no bond. The lack of a named-executor and no bond requirement in any will greatly increases costs of probate. Many people attempt to save money by purchasing inexpensive wills online; however, in order to be effective, these wills still must comply with necessary formalities. To save money, you might find a pro bono clinic that offers simple will preparation, as an alternative to a handwritten will. You might even purchase a will from an online source without consulting an attorney.
Our best advice is to work with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys to create a will and the other three documents that are part of a basic estate plan. We often offer a discount package for this basic estate plan, so call us at 800-929-1725 to find out. You’ll probably save money and you’ll likely save your executor and your family additional heartache during a time of grief.