While many people wisely seek the help of estate planning experts when they decide to make a last will and testament, some decide to go it alone. It may be surprising, but many states allow people to make out their own wills, and the ones that do have specific rules that must be followed for the will to be ruled valid by the probate court. Read on to learn more about this fascinating aspect of estate planning, known as holographic wills.

Where you live matters

These are the states that do not allow people to write their own wills:

  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia,
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

If you live in a holographic state

All those living in the other states are free to create their own wills as long as the rules in their state are followed.

Requirements for filing in probate court

State law controls probate laws and wills, so each state will have their own rules for handwritten wills. Some common requirements, however, are the following:

1. The will must be signed by the testator (the deceased person). Unlike with professionally-produced wills, there need not be any witnesses present at the signing. The signature of the deceased stands alone.

2. The will must be written entirely by hand. Typewritten or printed wills from a computer are not acceptable in probate court. You may have noticed will forms that are just fill-in-the-blank. These can often be found in estate-planning workbooks or even printed off the internet. For these wills to be admissible in most states, the form must be filled out by hand and the pre-printed portions are ignored. A will that is created entirely on a computer with no handwriting whatsoever is not generally a legal will.

3. Holographic wills don't have to be witnessed, but most states require that at least two people testify under oath that the will is in the handwriting of the deceased, to verify the will as being valid.

A note about military personnel

Maryland and New York only recognize holographic wills if they are created by members of the military. In both of these states, the wills expire one year after the soldier leaves active duty. The soldier must be serving in what is classed as an "armed conflict" or be a member of the merchant marines for those states to accept the soldier's holographic will.

If you are considering creating your own holographic will, be cautious. Some wills, regardless of how they were created, contain provisions that render them inadmissible in probate court. Whether you intend to create a holographic will or have decided to go the traditional route, speak to an estate planning lawyer like the ones at https://www.linskylaw.com for help and advice