A Solid Future Begins Today For You & Those You Love SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION

Are Handwritten Documents Valid in Estate Planning? 

Northwest Elder Law Center Nov. 28, 2022

My last will and Testament handwritten phraseThere are some common reasons why people handwrite a will or other estate planning documents rather than typing them or having them prepared by an estate planning attorney. They may be wanting to save money. They may be running out of time and attempt to create a will as they are dying.  

Is a handwritten will valid? That depends on the laws of the state in which they are executed and the requirements of the state when they are presented in probate. It also depends on the subtle difference in definition between “handwritten” and “holographic.” Often used interchangeably, a holographic will is handwritten by the person creating it but does not need to be witnessed.  

Only some states recognize true holographic wills, and Washington and Oregon are not among them. However, the two states may recognize handwritten wills if they meet certain requirements. If you are dealing with a handwritten will in probate court, or if you are considering handwriting your own, you should talk to Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning. After all, an invalid will is the same as having no will at all.  

Northwest Elder Law Center works with estate planning clients in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as those in Portland, Oregon, and surrounding communities.  

Are Handwritten Wills Valid in Washington and Oregon? 

A handwritten will is valid in Washington and Oregon if it is signed by the creator and witnessed by two competent adults. If the creator is unable to sign it themselves due to illness or injury, but is of sound mind, it can be signed by someone else. However, the permission granted by the creator for someone else to sign and the signature itself must be done in the presence of the witnesses.  

There can be some advantages to a handwritten will. A person without a will or who wants to change their will in the hours or moments before death can do so. The ability to execute a handwritten will in an emergency can make the difference between dying testate or intestate.  

There are far more disadvantages to handwritten wills. They may be illegible. The mental capacity of the will’s creator could be questioned. The lack of a date of execution and the presence of more than one handwritten will can be problematic. The lack of formality of a handwritten will can open the door to challenges to its validity in probate.  

The safest way to execute a will that will be validated in Washington or Oregon is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney licensed in these states. Your attorney will not only ensure it meets all legal requirements but also maintain a copy of the most recent will and a record of prior versions revoked by the creator. If a will is challenged, the court will place great weight on the testimony of the creator’s estate planning attorney who does not benefit from the estate.  

If you are dealing with a loved one’s handwritten will in Washington or Oregon, an estate planning attorney can help you challenge its validity or invalidity in probate.  

Trusted & Knowledgeable Legal Support 

Wills and other estate planning documents are worth the time and expense of creating them with the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney like Robert Taylor-Manning. If you want to decide the distribution of your estate and not leave those decisions in the hands of the probate court, your will must be valid. If you want to defend or challenge a handwritten or formal will, he can represent you in court.  

Clients from Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and Walla Walla, Washington, as well as those in Portland, Oregon, and surrounding communities, trust Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning with their estate planning needs. You can, too. Call Northwest Elder Law Center today to schedule a time to get started.