Are Handwritten Wills Allowed Under Texas Law?

In Texas, as in most states, the preparation and execution of a Last Will and Testament is ordinarily performed with a fair measure of decorum. Often printed on high quality paper, wills are carefully stapled into special covers and, after signing, placed within matching envelopes. Many attorneys have a ceremonial routine in which they ask the client questions in the presence of witnesses to show that the testator has his or her wits about them. Wills need not be so formal, of course. In some instances, they can be written on almost anything.

Unusual Handwritten Wills

Estate planning attorneys circulate stories about unusual wills that have been admitted to probate. There was the Philadelphia woman whose will consisted of remarks she wrote in her recipe book:

Chop tomatoes, onions and peppers fine … Measure tomatoes when peeled. In case I die before my husband I leave everything to him.

Even more unusual was the 1948 probate of a tractor fender in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The young farmer said goodbye to his wife and two young children and drove his tractor out to his fields. At mid-day, the tractor backed over him accidentally, trapping him beneath its enormous weight. Bleeding heavily, he took out his pocket knife and scratched some words into the tractor’s fender: “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris.” The fender was removed from the tractor and submitted to the court for probate.

Texas Handwritten Wills May Be Probated

In Texas, a handwritten will – the legal term is “holographic” – may be probated as long as it meets two requirements:

  •  It must be written wholly in the handwriting of the testator
  •  It must be signed by the testator

It need not be witnessed and it need not be written in contemplation of one’s death. Bear in mind that if you seek to make a holographic will, a printed form will likely not work: It won’t be wholly in your handwriting.

Oral or “Nuncupative” Wills in Texas

Questions occasionally arise as to the validity of oral wills. Known in legal circles as “nuncupative” wills, they have not been allowed in Texas since September 1, 2007. Even if a party contended that a loved one made the necessary statement of testamentary intent prior to that date, chances are the probate court would not allow it. Nuncupative wills were valid only if the testator was “in extremis,” that is to say, on his or her deathbed. If someone made the statement in 2007 and lived for a considerable time thereafter, it would fail the in extremis requirement.

Why Risk a Handwritten Will?

As indicated above, a handwritten will is allowed in Texas, but only if it meets the necessary criteria and, even then, such wills rarely meet the needs of the testator. It’s much better to be safe than for your family to be sorry. Preparation of a will that not only meets the legal needs of our state, but which distributes your carefully maintained assets in the way you want, ordinarily requires skilled, experienced legal counsel.

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Romano & Sumner – Skilled and Experienced Attorneys

The attorneys at Romano & Sumner have more than 20 years of combined experience providing expert legal assistance to clients. We represent clients in all types of transactions, including estate planning, will preparation, and the creation of appropriate trust documents. At Romano & Sumner, LLC, we take pride not only in our professionalism, but also our client service. We know that each situation is unique. We return phone calls within one business day. We keep clients informed. We complete the work within the allotted time frame. Call us at 281-242-0995 or complete our online contact form.

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