Are Handwritten Wills Valid?

Category Business

tldr #

No U.S. jurisdiction requires a will to be typewritten or professionally drafted by an attorney, and in some states like Michigan the absence of witnesses is permissible in the case of a handwritten document. Disputes regarding wills turn on their own unique facts, and those wills disputes average about US$17,000 in attorneys fees when taken to court. It can happen occasionally that someone as rich and famous as Franklin dies without a will, as evidenced by other famous people like Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes.

content #

No U.S. jurisdiction requires a will to be typewritten or professionally drafted by an attorney. Anything written down can serve as a valid will if the person who created it has sufficient mental capacity, wants the document to serve as a will and satisfies certain technical requirements for signing the document. Most states do require that at least two witnesses observe the will being signed and then add their own signatures to the will as "attesting witnesses." But some states, including Michigan, do not require witness signatures if the will was written and signed in the deceased person’s handwriting. However, when a will is professionally drafted by an attorney and signed by neutral witnesses, the facts surrounding the will’s preparation and execution can be easier to prove in court – most likely reducing legal expenses for heirs.

The dispute surrounding Franklin's estate was argued in a Michigan probate court

Every will contest turns on its own unique facts. The dispute in Franklin’s estate focused on whether a handwritten document from 2014 was properly signed and, if so, whether she intended for that document to operate as her will. That document was the most recent of all of the potential wills, which usually would be the determining factor. But it lacked a traditional complete signature. Instead, there was a smiley face drawn immediately before "Franklin." According to long-standing law, any mark intended as a signature is sufficient to validate a will.

When people on average aged over 65, well educated and wealthy have wills, studies show that 2 in 3 Americans don't have a written out will

About 2 in 3 Americans have not formally spelled out in a will what should happen with their estates following their deaths. Those most likely to have wills tend to be over 65 years old, well educated and wealthy. While it’s somewhat uncommon for someone as rich and famous as Franklin to die without a will, it does happen occasionally. Other good examples include civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., artist Pablo Picasso and business magnate Howard Hughes. Legal wrangling over singer-songwriter Prince’s huge estate took six years to resolve because he didn’t leave a will behind and the musician had no children or spouse when he died in 2016.

It is possible to make a valid will without additional witnesses in Michigan

The verdict from the probate court jury in the case of Franklin's will does not set a legal precedent, as no appellate or higher court decision was made. The attorneys fees in litigation over wills can be hefty. When a study of 443 probate cases from San Francisco between 2014 and 2016 was conducted, disputes like the one in the Franklin’s estate incurred an average of about US$17,000 in additional attorneys fees.

Martin Luther King Jr., Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes died without leaving a will

hashtags #
worddensity #