Articles Tagged with Holographic Will

While Houston estate planning may seem complicated, completing this process pays off in the long run. For individuals who start multiple wills throughout their lifetime—or have started a few drafts of wills but never completed one—a probate court battle will likely ensue after their passing. Family members may argue over which will is valid, especially if the details of the will benefit them more than another version of the will. This, unfortunately, can lead to bitterness and feuding family dynamics that are hard to overcome. Because of this, individuals should draft a comprehensive estate plan—and contact a Houston experienced estate planning attorney if they wish to make changes at a later time.

In the estate battle of legendary singer Aretha Franklin, her sons are disputing how her estate should be run—and which handwritten document is actually her will. According to a recent report, at the time of the singer’s death, her family assumed that she did not have a will. However, over the past two years, a few handwritten documents have emerged—which may represent two or three different wills—along with a few documents entitled “The Will of Aretha Franklin” that are stamped “draft” and do not include the singer’s signature. While a court has not yet decided which of these documents—if any—constitutes Franklin’s will, this will likely be a lengthy and expensive court battle.

Validity of Multiple or Holographic Wills

Because people craft Houston estate plans during different parts of their life, their situation may change, prompting them to change a portion of the will. Whether this is due to a divorce or the birth of a child, Texans often make changes to their estate plan. However, when this is done in hasty or improper ways, like writing a new will on a napkin, courts will often not recognize these improper revisions. Because of this—and to reduce expensive court battles—individuals need to diligently prepare and take the proper steps to change their estate plan.

After the passing of renowned journalist Larry King, the battle over his estate shows the necessity of modifying an estate plan correctly and not creating a handwritten will to replace it last-minute. According to a recent news report, because King and his wife were living apart—and a divorce pending—one of his children sought to become a special administrator of his father’s estate, although King’s will named his wife as the executor. Additionally, the son points to a handwritten will dated two months after King filed for divorce in 2019, which states he wanted all of his assets to be divided equally amongst his five children, and this should replace all previous writings. However, this will be a lengthy legal battle, as California, where King resided, has very specific requirements for a handwritten will to be deemed valid.

What Makes a Handwritten Will Valid?

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.

6.27.19While there are a surprising number of states that do accept holographic or handwritten wills, there are still requirements that must be met, or the will is deemed invalid.

After her death last August, it was thought that Aretha Franklin had no last will and testament.  However, as relatives have been going through her home and personal effects, it appears that not only did she have a will, she handwrote three wills, including one that was found stashed under a cushion.

Each of Aretha’s wills is handwritten. The three documents have been submitted as part of the probate process to have the court determine if any of them will have legal standing.

Stack of law booksThis is a great example of a failure to think outside of the box. Literally. A California man created a handwritten will that left all of his property to his wife if he were to predecease her. He also wrote that if they should both die at the same time, he wanted his property to be distributed to a number of charities that were important to them both.

What Duke did not contemplate in his will is the possibility that his spouse would pass away before he did, which is exactly what happened.

As Duke had never redrafted his will after his wife passed away, the trial and appellate courts declared that his property should go to his relatives under the laws of intestacy. However, the California Supreme Court ruled that an unambiguous will can be reformed by the court if it can be established by clear and convincing evidence that a mistake was made in expressing the testator's intent at the time the will was drafted.

Contact Information