Issues Texans Face When Using Handwritten and DIY Wills

Individuals who are considering drafting a will should consult with a Houston attorney to ensure that their document is legally binding and effectively communicates their wishes. Wills provide representatives and loved ones with crucial guidance on how to name executors, appoint guardians for children and pets, and distribute property after someone dies. Many people fail to create wills or attempt to draft these documents themselves; however, doing so can lead to many issues and conflicts. You should contact an experienced Houston area estate planning attorney to ensure that your final wishes are properly executed.

Each state has specific requirements that a will must comply with to be legally binding. In Texas, wills are valid if the testator is at least 18-years-old, of sound mind, and there were at least two credible witnesses present at the signing. In cases where the will is oral, there must be three credible witnesses. Many Texans believe that drafting a will is sufficient to make it legally binding; however, there are often additional documents and notary signatures that must be executed. Some documents include, but are not limited to, healthcare power of attorney designations, financial power of attorney designations, and disposition of remains and property directives.

Individuals who chose to write their own wills often fail to meet all of the requirements that make a will binding. Wills should include the appropriate language, correct signatures, and account for any property or possessions that people may fight over. Although, do-it-yourself and handwritten wills might be valid, they often create challenges for loved ones as the will passes through probate court.

Handwritten or Holographic Wills in Texas

Houston probate courts will recognize “holographic,” or handwritten, wills as long as they meet strict requirements. The will must be written entirely in the deceased person’s handwriting, and it must be signed. These wills do not need a witness for validation and can be written on virtually anything. However, these wills are usually designed to be placeholders in situations where the testator fears impending death or otherwise lacks time to create a will formally.

Although courts will accept these wills, these are the easiest wills to contest. Well-drafted wills are challenging to contest successfully, and contesters bear the burden of proving that the will is contrary to the testator’s intent. However, in cases where a holographic will is contested, the testator or those actuating the will must prove its validity. If a court finds that the will is invalid, the state will distribute the deceased’s property by using a set standard, even if it goes against the will. Texans should consult with an estate planning attorney to avoid these and other challenges to their final wishes.

Do You Need Assistance Drafting a Houston Will?

If you or someone you know has Houston estate planning needs, you should contact the attorneys at McCulloch & Miller. The lawyers at our firm have decades of collective experience guiding Texans through the estate planning process, ensuring that their wishes are properly effectuated. We represent clients in a variety of elder law matters, creating a will and other power of attorney documents, and asset protection. Contact our office at 713-333-8900 to discuss your specific estate planning needs.

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