A properly drafted and witnessed will is an essential part of estate planning in Maryland. Inheritance disputes, misunderstandings, and conflicts between family members may arise if the testator fails to follow the required procedures for making a valid will, whether standard or holographic.
What is a holographic will and is it valid in Maryland? The answer is more complex than you might think.
Holographic Will: Definition
To put it simply, a holographic will is a handwritten will. To be legally recognized, holographic wills must be:
- Entirely handwritten by the testator. From opening to signature, the testator must write a holographic will 100% by hand. Mixing handwritten and typed text, as well as crossing out parts of the text, could invalidate the will.
- Signed by the testator. A will is invalid without the testator’s signature.
- Easy to read and interpret. A holographic will must include a clear, concise list of the testator’s wishes regarding his or her property, such as naming heirs and appointing an estate executor.
Does Maryland Recognize Holographic Wills?
Some states recognize a holographic will even without witnesses. In Maryland, a handwritten will is valid only if the testator signs it in the presence of two witnesses. However, a Maryland probate court may accept a handwritten testament created in a state that does not require witnesses for a holographic will.
Any legally competent person aged 18 or older can witness a will in Maryland, provided that he or she isn’t one of the beneficiaries or a beneficiary’s spouse or partner.
Potential Problems with Holographic Wills
Many people find the idea of a holographic will appealing thanks to its simplicity. You don’t need to work with a lawyer or follow complex legal procedures to create a holographic will. Additionally, a holographic will may be the only option for some testators who need to write a will instantly.
However, holographic wills may present several pitfalls, including:
- Authenticity concerns. In some contested cases, potential beneficiaries may doubt that the testator composed the will in his or her own handwriting. A handwriting expert may determine the will’s validity.
- Undue influence. Family members may claim that the testator wrote the will under undue influence, for example by someone the testator depended on.
- Accuracy. Without proper legal counsel, a holographic will can contain mistakes, incorrect language, or critical omissions that may override its validity. Messy handwriting can also make it difficult to interpret a will.
We hope that answering the question of “What is a holographic will?” illustrates the importance of ensuring proper estate planning and working with a competent estate lawyer to create a valid will.
Ralph W. Powers Jr., P.C.: Your Estate Planning Lawyer in Upper Marlboro, Maryland
In estate planning, you want to leave no room for error. At the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers Jr., P.C. we can help you draft a comprehensive, legally valid will that facilitates estate administration, provides peace of mind and makes your family’s life easier.
Call 301-627-1000 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation. We serve Prince George’s County and all of Southern Maryland.