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Caution advised for those planning to leave handwritten wills

There was a time when all wills were handwritten or at least dictated to another party. Now, everything is neat and orderly, formalized as appropriate and witnessed to support authenticity. However, handwritten or holographic wills are still used and are quite legal in Texas. With that said, testators who have created a handwritten will should take care to use clear language that leaves no room for doubt.

A recent question was raised concerning a woman who created her own will in her own handwriting. While the will did meet the requirements of a holographic will—it was written entirely in her hand, was signed by her and was dated—the language of her document was less than clear. Reportedly, the document simply indicated she intended to give all of her possessions to her son. Unfortunately, this will contains a few deficiencies that the son will have to address before he can collect his inheritance.

The will's first problem is that it does not identify her beneficiary by name. In any legal document, heirs and beneficiaries should be identified by name to eliminate any uncertainty. A court may need to decide precisely who this heir is before any assets can be distributed.

The second problem is that the will was not witnessed. This means the court cannot be certain the will was created by this woman in her own handwriting. Somehow, the son will need to provide proof that the will is valid.

Third, the woman's will does not name an executor or estate administrator to settle her affairs. As such, the court may have to step in and appoint a qualified party to administer the estate.

Even though handwritten wills are allowed in the state of Texas, they are still important documents that require careful thought, planning and legal language to be valid. Working with an estate planning lawyer can ensure you avoid mistakes no matter what type of will you need.

Source: My San Antonio, "3 main deficiencies of a handwritten will," Paul Premack, Aug. 12, 2016

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