When a loved one passes away, the responsibility of going through property and sorting out affairs often falls to family or close friends. As someone tasked with this enormous and emotional feat, you may not know what to expect.
What happens if you find a hastily scribbled last will and testament in a desk drawer?
Is the document legal?
In Texas, a holographic, or handwritten will is a legal document if it meets the following criteria:
- The text must be completely in writing
- The testator must have handwritten the entire will
- The testator must have signed the document
- The testator must use language that shows intent to make an irrevocable gift after death
- The will must be specific as to who inherits which assets
It is not easy to pen an acceptable will without the help of an estate planning professional. In many cases, courts reject handwritten documents, or they require too many authentication steps, which can be too expensive for the estate. If the deceased does not name an independent executor, the courts must supervise the probate process. Additionally, any ambiguity in the language of the will can make intentions unclear, leading to will contests, lengthy disputes and broken families.
Does it supersede previous versions?
When you find a handwritten will, you may not be sure if it is the latest version, especially if other drafts exist. There is a risk someone else may try to invalidate the document and probate a previous will instead.
While not ideal, a handwritten will lets you know the final wishes of your loved one. You may wish to honor the deceased by enacting their last will; however, you should prepare to face challenges during the process.