It might sound like the stuff of old movies, but believe it or not, Probate courts in Texas and Arkansas still see their fair share of handwritten Wills. Known legally as a “holographic” Will, these documents are recognized as legally valid in both states, but they must meet certain criteria. We will tell you what constitutes a valid holographic will in the ArkLaTex, but we will also explain why we don’t recommend using a handwritten Will to manage your estate.
What Does a Legal Holographic Will Look Like in Texas?
In order for a handwritten Will to be valid in Texas, it must be written entirely in your own hand. No part of it can be typed, and no part can be written by another person. It must be legible and coherent. In addition, it should:
- State that it is your Last Will and Testament
- List who you want to receive which belongings
- Name a person to be the independent executor of the Will
- Be signed by you and dated
In Texas, it is not required by law that a handwritten Will be signed in front of witnesses or a notary.
The Law Is a Little Different in Arkansas
Arkansas also recognizes holographic Wills and requires that the document be written entirely in the testator’s handwriting and signed by them. While Arkansas does not require witnesses to the creation of the Will, they could require evidence from at least three credible witnesses to establish that the handwriting and signature do, in fact, belong to the testator.
Why We Do Not Recommend Trusting a Holographic Will
We understand the temptation to write your own Will, especially if you do not think you have a complicated Estate. After all, if it’s free and recognized by law, why not do it yourself? We will tell you why.
Even though handwritten Wills and free downloadable Wills (which do have to be witnessed) are technically admissible, that doesn’t mean a Probate judge will accept them. If there is any problem with the documents—for example, the judge decides it’s not legible, or a witness is also a beneficiary—it will be invalidated, and your Estate will be distributed according to state law rather than your wishes. Do-it-yourself Wills are also more easily contested by family members than Wills prepared and defended by lawyers.
When you work with an Estate Planning lawyer to write your Will, you can be sure that it will not only stand up in Probate court but it will also stand up to challenges by family members and others. When we work with clients to write Wills, we ensure that they are of sound mind, they have accounted for all of their property and assets, their wishes are reflected accurately in the document, and that the Will is properly written, witnessed, and located at the time of death.
There’s More to an Estate Plan Than a Will
The other advantage of working with an Estate Planning lawyer is that you can be informed about the other important documents that make up a comprehensive Estate Plan. You might not have a lot of property to bequeath, but do you want the court to decide who can make end-of-life decisions about you if you are incapacitated? Do you want to default on your mortgage because no one was given the power to sign checks on your behalf if you are unable to? We are sure you don’t want these things to happen. When you meet with us to write a Will, we will talk to you about other Estate Planning tools, such as:
- Trusts. Not everyone needs a Revocable Living Trust, but it is a valuable Estate Planning tool if you have considerable assets, including retirement funds.
- Powers of Attorney. These documents appoint a trusted person to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to due to incapacitation.
- Beneficiary designations. Every one of your insurance policies or investment accounts that allows for beneficiary designations should have them, and they should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
- Guardianship designations. If you have minor children or are the legal guardian for an adult, your Will should name guardians to take your place upon your death.
Are You Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney in Texarkana, TX?
If you are looking for Estate Planning advice, you need to speak with an experienced Estate Planning attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903.223.5653. We also have offices in Tyler, Paris, and Longview, as well as Magnolia, AR!