Do Courts “Respect” Handwritten Wills?

Why leave your estate subject to the whims of the court?

In Virginia, hand written wills are valid only if they meet all of the statutory requirements for execution of a valid will. The will must be:

  1. Written wholly in the handwriting of the testator (the person making the will);
  2. Will must be signed by the testator and two witnesses in the testator’s presence and in the presence of each other at the testator’s direction;

It is important to note that the validity of a will is determined by state law. Although it remains to be decided whether the recently discovered handwritten wills allegedly penned by the singer are valid in Michigan, they would not be valid in Virginia. The 2014 will does not appear to be signed by Franklin at the end of the document nor did two attesting witnesses sign the document.

At Zaremba Center, clients often come to us with handwritten wills or wills that were generated online, which often cause problems down the road during the probate process. The costs of remedying these issues typically far exceed the costs of a comprehensive estate planning package drafted by an attorney.

As a result of the handwritten wills, Franklin’s family is now involved in probate litigation. It is possible that the bulk of her assets will be spent on legal fees and court costs to decide whether the handwritten wills are valid and determine who is entitled to her property. Additionally, the Michigan court may find that the handwritten wills are not valid and the singer’s wishes regarding her property might not be honored.

This story highlights the importance of working with an estate planning attorney to ensure your estate planning documents are drafted properly so that your wishes are carried out in the event of your incapacity or death. If you need assistance with your estate planning, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. My law practice is dedicated to all areas of estate planning Wills, Trust,  Medicaid and VA benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianship, probate, and trust administration.


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