Wills and Estate

Items in the Law May be Simpler than They Appear: Holographic Wills

Based on television shows about lawyers, it seems sometimes that the law is incredibly Byzantine and complicated – and it is! That’s why it pays to hire an experienced, trained lawyer to ensure that you navigate the laws of your area nimbly and accurately. But there are some surprising moments when things are actually much simpler than they appear, and in many jurisdictions the Last Will and Testament is one of those surprisingly simple things, under the right circumstances.

Most people assume that a will has to be a very complex, official document, but the fact is that in Mississippi and many other states in the U.S., a simple handwritten – or holographic – will is perfectly valid assuming it has the following basic requirements:

  • It can be proven reasonably that it was entirely written by the individual;
  • The entire document is in the maker’s handwriting.
  • The signature is at the very end of the document.

So, yes, this means that you can take a piece of paper right at this moment and write out a legally binding will. There are many circumstances that might require or inspire a holographic will – finding yourself trapped in a life-threatening situation, for example, without a more formal will already prepared. This is why the courts continue to honor them.

However, just because you can prepare your will on a piece of scrap paper after a few moments’ contemplation does not mean this is advisable. Depending on the complexity of your estate and your instructions, consulting a lawyer in the preparation of your will may be the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out correctly, and will ensure that your will can withstand any challenges that might be brought. Even if you’re writing your will out by hand, a lawyer’s advice can make all the difference.