Is a handwritten will valid?

Wills written by hand (not typed or created on a computer or word processor), also known as holographic wills, are only valid in a few states.

States that legally recognize holographic wills (to varying degrees) include: 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.

Even in these states, however, there may be very specific requirements. For example, California requires that all sections of the will necessary to make the will valid must be written entirely by hand, and that the person writing the will must sign it. If these state rules aren’t followed, the holographic will won’t be valid.

Sometimes a handwritten will is better than no will at all, sometimes it's not. If the person writing the will doesn’t know how to write a will and leaves out important language, or if the holographic will creates ambiguity or an unintended result, then the intended property might end up going to the wrong person. If the person’s property would have gone to family members under the state laws that cover property when there’s no will (a process known as intestate succession), having no will might have achieved a result closer to the will writer’s real intentions.

See will form reviews for information about products that can help you draft a valid will for a simple estate.