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
When an individual has multiple wills—or potentially none of these documents constitute a valid will—the matter will be taken to the probate court, where a judge will decide the matter. Unless a will is handwritten, in order to be valid, it must: (1) be in writing; (2) signed by the individual; (3) witnessed by at least two other individuals. For a handwritten will, it does not need to be witnessed by other individuals—but still requires the creator’s signature. If an individual has multiple wills, the most recent valid will is accepted by the court. This is why people usually think it is sufficient to create a new handwritten will to override their previous one. However, this often will cause more problems than it is worth. Parties will argue the signature is invalid or that the signing of the will was merely a draft and not witnessed by two other individuals. Instead, if an individual wants to modify a previous version of their will, they should not handwrite it. By diligently preparing the document with witnesses, they will eliminate the avenues for people to argue the revisions are invalid.
Because the rules surrounding an admissible will are very technical—and often can be difficult to understand—individuals going through such a crisis should contact an experienced estate planning attorney.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one is interested in creating a thoroughly prepared will—or is struggling to determine which handwritten document constitutes a loved one’s will—contact the experienced Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We understand court battles surrounding a person’s estate are stressful and emotionally taxing on a family, and do everything we can to stop these issues before they occur by creating a detailed estate plan that meets your specific needs. To discuss your situation and to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, give us a call at 713-333-8900 today.