Can you imagine writing your will on your bedroom wall? How about the fender of your vehicle?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the shortest will in the world consisted of three words — “All to wife”– written on the bedroom wall of a man who realized his death was imminent. In 1948, a farmer in Canada trapped under his tractor carved “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris” into his tractor’s fender. The fender was probated as his will.
Each state and country has different rules about what constitutes a valid will. So a will valid in one jurisdiction may not be valid in another. But Texas does authorize the use of holographic wills, a handwritten will, which dispense with some of the formalities required for typewritten or formal wills.
Requirements for Holographic Wills in Texas
A holographic will is a handwritten will. In order to be valid in Texas, a holographic will must be wholly in the handwriting of the testator and signed by him or her.
A holographic will can be written on anything, including stationery, and does not have to be signed by witnesses. However, it is still necessary for the testator to have testamentary capacity and intent at the time he or she signs the will.
Potential Pitfalls With Holographic Wills
Holographic wills are often used in emergency situations until more formal documents can be drafted, but their use is not restricted to any particular circumstances. And while they may seem like an easy way to handle one’s estate planning needs, there are inherent pitfalls associated with relying on them as a primary estate planning tool.
Because many testators do not know the requirements for a valid will in Texas, holographic wills may contain defects which lead to unnecessary expenses and delays in administering their estate.
For example, if the holographic will has ambiguous provisions, it might be necessary for a court to construe the meaning of ambiguous terms. Or if it does not contain language allowing an executor to serve independently, court-supervised administration may be required.
Often the cost of having an attorney draft your will is much less than the costs associated with fixing a mistake after you die. An attorney can help you avoid common mistakes and in the process, give you peace of mind that your last wishes will be carried out just the way you intended.