Can you write a valid Will on the back of an envelope in Philadelphia? The answer is yes….. but you are asking for trouble. Philadelphia Will Drafting Attorneys agree, Self-Proved Wills are preferable to Holographic Wills.
A Will is a statement declaring a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of the person’s property when the person dies. It affects titles to land, whom receives bank accounts and stocks and whom will serve in guardianships for minor children. Any discrepancy, error or omission can lead to years of litigation and bad feelings between the surviving family members. A Will is not something to take lightly.
A Holographic Will is a handwritten Will without witnesses. Few states recognize Holographic Wills, but Pennsylvania is one of them. (link to Frequently asked questions). The typical problem with a Holographic Will is that it is drafted without the guidance of an attorney trained in drafting Wills, so often the document has errors or omissions that lead to litigation in the Orphans’ Court. You can imagine that a handwritten Will can also raise questions about forgery, requiring family members to retain handwriting experts and again, lead to litigation over the Will’s validity.
Rather than having a Holographic Will, it is a better idea to have a Self-Proved Will with two witnesses. A Self-Proving Will is a Will that includes an acknowledgment sworn to by the witness in which they say, among other things, that the testator was the one who signed the Will, that the testator signed the Will willingly and of his free and voluntary will, that each witness was in the hearing and the sight of the testator when he signed the Will and that the testator was 18, of sound mind and under no constraint or undue influence.
This acknowledgment is then notarized. When the testator then dies, this notarized Will acknowledgment allows the Register of Wills to accept the Will as valid without involving the witnesses or getting further affidavits. The family also knows that the Will was signed in front of witnesses who can be located and questioned, which reduces the chances of litigation.
If you wish to have a Holographic Will, Pennsylvania does allow you that right. But, as a Philadelphia Attorney who has drafted many Wills….and has spent years in the Orphans’ Court litigating over the validity of Wills…I can say that having a well drafted Self-Proving Will is your better choice.
If you need assistance in developing your Estate Plan please call one of our Estate Planning Lawyers for a free consultation. We have Estate Planning Attorneys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota and Florida. Estate Planning is all our Estate Planning Lawyers do!