The Dangers of Handwritten Wills and the Importance of Diligent Preparation in Texas Estate Plan

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?

In Texas, a court can accept handwritten wills as valid; however, there are precise requirements that must be met. First, someone must testify that the handwritten will is in the person’s handwriting. If this is contested, the person’s estate may have to hire a handwriting expert to testify, which can be extremely costly. Additionally, because handwritten wills often are not written in the presence of other individuals, people can argue that the drafter was not in their right mind when it was written—and there will be no witness to testify to the contrary. Since there are major pitfalls that come with last-minute, handwritten wills, all Texans should have a detailed estate plan drafted with an attorney’s help.

Because handwritten wills and estate plans will cause a drawn-out, and expensive, legal battle, it is critical for Texans to be explicit in their estate plan and plan ahead. This means if they wish to make changes to their estate plan, they should contact their attorney, who can make the relevant provisions in a way that will be recognized by courts. Writing a new will last-minute will only cause more problems.

Because changes to an estate plan may be spur of the moment, individuals wishing to modify their estate plan should contact an experienced Houston estate planning attorney.

Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney

If you or a loved one needs help revising an estate plan, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We work with a diverse clientele to create and amend their estate plans, and are here to help you with any modifications you may want—or to talk through various options and see which is best for you. To speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today, and to schedule a consultation, give us a call at 713-333-8900.

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