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What Is a Holographic Will and When Is It Legally Binding in Arizona?

holographic will - estate planning

Holographic Wills

Holographic Wills, or handwritten Wills, are legally binding and accepted in Arizona, as long as certain legal conditions and criteria are met.

While it may seem like the most straightforward method for bequeathing your estate to your chosen heirs, a Holographic Will is usually fraught with errors, causing complications and stress for those left behind to initiate the intended desires of the one leaving the Holographic Will.  An experienced estate planning attorney will advise you that you should NOT use a Holographic Will as a substitute for a properly drafted Will or a thorough estate plan.

When Are Handwritten Wills Legally Binding?

A Holographic Will is one that is completely handwritten, dated and signed by the person initiating the Will, it cannot be typed and hand-written.

In order to be considered a legal document, one that a probate court will accept, a Holographic Will must be completely written in the decedent’s own handwriting and signed by the deceased and ALL other special stipulations must be included in the handwritten document in order for it to be considered a legal document, including that there can be NO typed addendums to the Will bequeathing certain property.  It is not necessary to have a witness sign the Holographic Will, but it is a requirement in both states that the decedent be of sound mind at the time the Holographic Will was written and signed and they must be of legal age. If there is a Holographic Will, in most cases, the court will be forced to attempt to interpret the final wishes of the deceased with little help to go on.

When Are Holographic Wills Used?

In most cases, a Holographic Will is used when a person hastily desires to write a Will and usually occurs in an emergency situation. One of the most famous examples occurred in Canada in 1948 when a farmer was involved in a tragic tractor accident. Not having time to formally write a document, the farmer scrawled his final wishes on the bumper of the tractor, signing and dated the bumper in the process. During the probate process, the court took the bumper as an exhibit and as the Will of the decedent in order to ensure his wishes were carried out.

If there is a Holographic Will, in most cases, the court will be forced to attempt to interpret the final wishes of the deceased, above what was written, with little help to go on.  That is why it is not advised to wait until the last minute to set your desires in motion regarding your estate and who should benefit from your estate. Therefore, it is best to contact a qualified Will or Trust attorney who can properly draft your Will or your Trust so that your loved ones are properly provided for.

Legal Challenges

Holographic Wills are the most contested form of a Will in a probate action vs. a formally drafted Will prepared by a qualified Will attorney.  This is especially true if the Holographic Will contains ambiguous provisions or contains legal errors. That is why it is best to retain an experienced estate planning attorney who understand what your desires are and who can insert the necessary legal terms into the Will that will carry out your wishes (and they won’t revert to using some template form found on-line or in a office supply store).

For an experienced Will Attorney or Trust Lawyer, if you are involved in probate litigation involving a Holographic Will or if you need estate planning advise, please contact the qualified attorneys at Ayala Law Office, P.C.. Ayala Law Office, P.C., established in 2008, has offices located in Dallas, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona. Please visit their Dallas local listing in D Magazine and visit their websites at www.lawyersdallas.com and www.lawyers-tucson.com for more information.

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