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Can I Write a Handwritten Will?

 Posted on August 14, 2018 in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning attorneyIn the comedy show Parks and Recreation, there is a scene where Ron Swanson is being lectured about how his impressive estate is not covered by a will. He replies that he does have a will and that he wrote it when he was eight years old. To the horror of his financially-savvy colleague, Ron pulls out a small folded note with a few scribbles on it. If you have thought about creating your last will and testament, you may have wondered if you can simply write the instructions down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. The answer varies depending on where you live, but it is important to note that Illinois wills must meet certain criteria to be legally binding.

States Vary on Rules Regarding Handwritten Wills

The enforceability of a handwritten will depends on state law. Many states do accept handwritten wills that meet other criteria, but each state’s laws vary with regard to witness requirements. The purpose of having witnesses sign off on people’s wills is to ensure to the court that the will’s creator, called a testator, signed the will of his or her own volition. Testators must have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing and cannot be coerced into signing a will. Having witnesses also helps guarantee that the signature on the will is that of the testator and is not forged. Nevertheless, in some jurisdictions, witnesses are not required to be present for a handwritten will to be legal. This is known as a holographic will. Two witnesses must be present when the will is signed in other jurisdictions.

Making Changes or Updates to a Handwritten Will

It is understandable that some changes in life circumstances may necessitate updates to a will. In some jurisdictions, handwritten notes on a will can be interpreted as a valid testamentary intent. In other places, handwritten notes can invalidate the entire will. Handwritten notes are very susceptible to being challenged in probate court. Beneficiaries or family members of the testator may file a lawsuit to dispute the changes made via handwriting. This can be tremendously expensive and can completely deplete an estate.

Holographic Wills Are Not Valid in Illinois

In Illinois, holographic wills, or handwritten wills with no witnesses, are not legally enforceable. However, handwritten wills that are witnessed and signed by at least two people other than the creator—and that meet all other requirements—can be enforced.

If you are worried that your will is not valid or you need guidance while writing your will, contact an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney for help. Call A. Traub & Associates at 630-426-0196 to schedule your confidential consultation today.



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