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Handwritten Wills and Handwritten Changes to Wills

 Posted on May 17, 2017 in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyerPeople often wonder whether they can handwrite their will or change their will by writing in new provisions or crossing things out. To be clear, if you want to be sure that your will is followed exactly after your death, all changes should be made with the help of your attorney. That said, whether you can handwrite a will or make handwritten changes to a will depends primarily on where you live and where your will is to be executed upon your death.

Jurisdiction Matters

The validity of a handwritten will depends on the laws of the state in which you reside. Many states recognize handwritten wills as potentially valid, but each state may have different witness requirements. Witnesses ensure that you have the mental capacity and intent to make a will and that you, in fact, were the one to sign it. In some jurisdictions, a witness does not need to be present for a handwritten will to be valid. This type of will is known as a holographic will. In other jurisdictions, two witnesses must be present.

The same goes for a handwritten change to your will. A court may interpret handwritten notes as a valid testamentary intent or may invalidate the entire will because handwritten notes were present, depending on the laws in your state. Regardless of what your state’s laws say, however, wills with these types of changes are very susceptible to challenges in court. Potential beneficiaries may file a lawsuit to dispute handwritten changes, and defending such changes could result in a depletion of your estate.

Handwritten Wills in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, holographic wills are not considered to be valid. Illinois does recognize, however, handwritten wills that are signed by two witnesses and satisfy all other requirements for wills as stated in the law. It is important to keep in mind that handwritten wills are often subject to potential challenges due to possible confusion. For example, mistakes in wording or ambiguous language can lead to a misinterpretation of your true intentions. A probate court may then award your estate to someone other than your intended beneficiary or may invalidate the will altogether.

Handwritten Changes to Wills

To ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes, you should make any modifications through a codicil. A codicil is a formal addendum to your will through which you can make valid changes to your estate plan. To make a codicil, you have to follow the same formalities you followed when writing your will. In Illinois, for example, two witnesses must be present. Under the law, a codicil may also be handwritten, but the same risks must still be considered.

If you are concerned that your will may not follow all of the requirements set forth in Illinois law, contact an estate planning attorney in Lombard. Call A. Traub & Associates at 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation today. We can help you ensure that your wishes will be carried out as specified in your estate plan.


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