A holographic will is a type of will and testament that is hand-written instead of being drafted using a typewriter or computer. Holographic wills are generally created in situations where death is imminent and another will does not exist. For example, a woman on her deathbed may handwrite a will or a soldier going off to battle may decide to create a holographic will. Recognition of holographic wills varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Holographic wills are not valid in some jurisdictions, and invalid holographic wills are usually thrown out by a probate court. In some emergency circumstances, however, a court may elect to recognize a holographic will. For instance, some courts acknowledge holographic wills written by military personnel or sailors. Usually, however, these wills are only valid for a certain period of time.
Even in jurisdictions that recognize holographic wills, specific requirements typically must be adhered to in order for the will to be deemed valid. Usually, a holographic will must be signed by the testator, which is a term used to describe the person who created the will. In some jurisdictions, the will must be entirely written by hand. This means that if the will is partly typed and partly handwritten, it could be found invalid. Other jurisdictions only require the material portions of the will to be written by hand.
Some probate courts require a handwritten will to contain evidence that the testator desired to distribute his or her assets to heirs or beneficiaries. Additionally, the signing of the will generally needs to be witnessed – just as with a regular will. Many courts also require evidence that the will was actually written by the testator. Witnesses or handwriting specialists may be brought in to testify to the validity of the will’s creation.
Most jurisdictions require the testator to possess a certain level of competency when writing a holographic will. A will written by a dying person who is no longer of sound mind, for example, may be deemed invalid. In general, courts presume that the testator had enough capacity to create a will unless evidence proves otherwise.
Even if a particular court does not recognize a holographic will, it may make an exception under a foreign wills law. Essentially, these jurisdictions acknowledge a holographic will made in another jurisdiction if the will would have been valid in that jurisdiction. For instance, suppose a holographic will is drafted in Area A, and Area A recognizes holographic wills. Suppose then that the will is probated in Area B, a jurisdiction that does not recognize holographic wills but that has adopted a foreign wills law. Area B would then accept the will as valid.