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Ask a Lawyer: Are Handwritten Wills Legal?

Every week we ask our guest attorneys to stop by our Facebook page and answer your legal questions. Here’s one such question from a woman in Texas who wants to know more about the legality of her father’s handwritten will.

If you have any pressing legal questions for our guest attorneys, come by our Facebook page every Wednesday from 10:30am-12:00pm (pacific time). If you can not make it,  submit your questions early and we will do our best to answer your questions.

My dad said he wrote a handwritten will & left everything to my cousin.I am his only living child & he is not married. We live in Texas. I am getting a copy of this will soon. My dad almost died recently & something sounds fishy about this handwritten will. If I can prove this will is not legal, will I be able to claim everything?

Sounds like there are a lot of ins and outs surrounding your dad’s estate plan, Teresa. You should probably talk to an attorney who can dive deeper into the specific details. You might also want to talk to your dad about things. The best way to inherit from him is probably to make sure he includes you!

With that said, a signed, handwritten will is legal in most jurisdictions, including Texas. They’re called holographic wills. Often, they’re not the best way to do things, because they tend to leave out important details and can cost a lot to usher through probate, but they are recognized by probate courts.

If push comes to shove, there are four common ways to challenge a will. You could argue: 1) that it’s not executed properly, 2) that it’s a product of fraud, 3) that the person who made the will didn’t have mental capacity to understand what they were doing, or 4) that the person making the will was under duress and making the will they made wasn’t their true intention. These would be great topics to bring up if you talk to a lawyer.

One Comment

  1. My cousin experienced the same thing with her dad’s will. She was her dad’s daughter from his first family. Her dad remarried and had kids in the second marriage. Now, she’s contesting the handwritten will because she got considerably less than her half-siblings.