Legal Briefs: Do handwritten notes make a will?

The handwritten Will is a commonly misunderstood area of estate planning. Under Oklahoma Statutes title 84, section 54, a holographic Will (as it is known in Oklahoma) can be a valid testamentary instrument if it is: (1) entirely written by the Testator, (2) dated, and (3) signed by the Testator. Sounds simple enough, right?

But Oklahoma courts are very strict in interpreting holographic Wills. For instance, what if part of the document is typed, while the rest is handwritten? What if some of it was written on one date, then some more was written on another? Where does the signature have to be located on the document? Where does the date have to be located? How should you describe your assets and beneficiaries? Do the pages need to be stapled or clipped together?

Importantly, there must also be evidence that the Testator intended this particular document as a Will. Is the language of the document sufficient? Could anybody argue that the document is simply a set of notes rather than a testamentary instrument? 

As you can see, drafting a valid Will is not quite as simple as it seems. Even more difficult can be drafting an effective Will that disposes of your assets exactly how you want. Keep in mind that once you are gone, you cannot tell the court exactly what you want to happen to your “stuff.” If you phrase something ambiguously, the court may not interpret it the way you intended. What if you want to amend the Will? What if one of the pages gets lost or out of order? What if your handwriting is difficult to read?

So you want to know whether handwritten notes make a Will? The answer: it depends. And when it comes to the disposal of your assets — your life’s work — do you really want to take the chance?

There are many things to consider when making a Last Will and Testament, which is why we always recommend consulting an estate planning attorney to discuss and prepare your estate plan. You can contact Postic & Bates today for a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your estate planning needs.

[As with all our posts, the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are subject to our site-wide disclaimer.]