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Handwritten Wills Explained by An Estate Planning Attorney

Sept. 5, 2018

Creating a will is an important part of establishing an estate plan that will protect your loved ones after you are gone. Unfortunately, over half of the adults in the United States do not have a will. People cite a variety of reasons including the unpleasantness of end of life planning and a lack of physical assets when asked why they do not have a will.

When a person does not realize that having a will is crucial even if you have limited wealth and few heirs, he or she might make the mistake of creating a holographic will. These are wills that are handwritten and while writing a will by hand may seem like the best way to create a valid will, your handwritten will may not be legal and valid in Pennsylvania.

A Holographic Will, Defined

These Are Interesting

A holographic will is a will that is handwritten and then signed by the testator. These wills are usually seen as an affordable alternative to going to an attorney and favored by those who are not comfortable using personal computers to create legal documents. When asked, “Is a handwritten will legal?” some probate courts are reluctant to provide answers that could be construed as legal advice and will instead refer curious individuals Pennsylvania code.

Specifically, the law states that a will is valid in Pennsylvania if it is:

  • In writing

  • Signed by the testator by someone in the testator’s presence at the express direction of the testator

  • Signed by the testator using a mark or name that is meant to authenticate the will

  • Subscribed and attested in the presence of two or more competent witnesses

The person creating the will must be at least 14 years old and be of sound mind and memory, meaning they are aware of what they are doing.

Is the Will Legal and Valid?

We Thought So, But…

Unless a will is legal and valid, the terms set forth in that document will not be honored. While having a holographic will may seem better than having no will or relying on an oral will, they are extremely easy to challenge. A holographic will that is un-witnessed or not witnessed by at least two people who do not benefit from the will (they are not beneficiaries) will not be recognized in Pennsylvania.

Relying on a handwritten will that is ultimately contested could create numerous problems for your estate and the loved ones who were hoping to avoid a long probate process.

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney

We Think It Is Proper

The most effective way to protect your loved ones by ensuring that any estate plan you establish is valid is to consult a qualified wills and probate attorney. An attorney can answer your questions, ensure that any will you create meets Pennsylvania legal requirements, and give you the peace of mind you deserve.

An estate planning attorney in Pittsburgh understands how difficult estate planning is and we work with you to create a legally binding will that protects your legacy. Contact us to set up an initial consultation today so that we can begin discussing your needs.

Wills, estates and other vital components of probate law in Pittsburgh can be clarified by our firm. Get the facts behind wills by calling us.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.