Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Texas Holographic (handwritten) will

Texas allows for a will to be entirely hand-written.  Of course, if you don't do it properly then your heirs will pay extra for probating a will with a problem. I holographic will is better than no will but there are many cases where you could be hurting your heirs if you don't do it correctly.

If your estate is over $1 million then please hire an attorney. At least meet with one in person and go over the pros and cons of having a professional draft your will for you.

A will lawsuit can cost thousands of dollars and take months (or years) to resolve. I doubt that anyone wants their heirs to have to suffer through a long drawn out lawsuit.

To write a will in Texas you need to be over the age of 18.

You must be of "sound mind".
That means at minimum that you know what property you own.
You understand what you are doing is writing a will.
And, you need to determine how you want your property divided at your death.

Many things can pass without a will.
Such as...
   Life insurance if you list a person then that person gets the money and the will does not apply.
You can always divided the life insurance between 1,2 or more people. 

   Retirement can pass directly to the people you list. Then the will does not apply.

   Bank accounts - talk to your banker about how to do this so that a designated person or persons get the money directly. One way is "payable on death" or "right of survivorship". The right of survivorship usually means that it's a joint account and that person can also have access to the money - you might not want that while you are alive.

   Vehicles - The State of Texas has forms to transfer ownership of a vehicle when a will is not probated. I recently did this when a friend died. Quite frankly it took months and 4 visits to the vehicle registration office in Houston but the vehicle finally was transferred out of the dead person's name. 

So to write a will you need to write at the top of the page "Will" or "The Last Will and Testament of ____ (your name) ___".

Then you need to identify yourself.
"I, __(your name)__, of  (your address), (your city), (your current) County, Texas on this date, __(write in the exact date with month day and year)__, that am over the age of 18 and of sound mind.  I am writing this holographic will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the disposition of my estate after my death."

Then follow it with a paragraph revoking old wills.
"I expressly revoke all prior wills and make them invalid and without any legal binding force".

If you truly want any old wills to not see the light of day then shred every copy of your old will(s). This is known as revocation by destruction.

You might want to have the old will be "reserected" if there is ever a will contest. I've known people that were not talking to their family members to do the same (or very similar will) every 2 or 3 months so that there are many wills to attempt to avoid any future lawsuits.  If the first will probated is held to be invalid then the next will is entered for probate and the fight starts all over. Therefore, if you have 4 of the same will there will be 4 will lawsuits and the cost usually deters people from fighting. It also shows the judge that you had intent to have your wishes followed.  

If you anticipate a will contest (lawsuit) I urge you to hire an attorney to make sure there are witnesses and a notary willing to come to court to testify that you were mentally competent and there was no undue influence used on you to write a new will.  You might also want your primary medical provider to note in your file of a recent medical visit and in the notes include that you were of sound mind and not suffering from any mental issues or dementia.

Then there should be a paragraph on dividing your property.
"I want xxx (full legal name) who lives in ____ (full address)__ who is __(my brother, spouse, good friend, caretaker, etc.) to receive __ (100% or whatever you want to say) of my estate. Or, some people divide their estate equally between 2 or more people. Or, some people say " I want to divide my estate as shown on Exhibit 1 attached hereto and made a part hereof of my will that is also signed and dated by me."  Then attach a separate sheet dividing your things and sign and date that too.

Then there should be a paragraph on who you want to serve as executor of your estate.  You need to pick someone smart and willing to do a lot of paperwork and spend time taking care of your financial affairs. It can be quite a lot of work and time.
"I want __ (full name, date of birth, address and phone number if you know all this info.)__ to be my independent executor to serve without a bond."

At the end of the will be sure to sign it as you normally sign things and date it.

DO NOT TYPE IT! The hand-written will must be 100% in your hand-writing. Do not put it on fancy stationery. It must be on plain paper that is easy to read.

If you have more than one page I suggest you number each page and initial each page.

You do not need witnesses to your signing this legal document.  However, if there is a lawsuit no one can testify that you personally signed it and that you were of sound mind and no one forced you to do so or used undue pressure on you to get you to do it.

Be sure to NOT put your will in a safety deposit box. Put the original in a safe place where it can be located after you have died.  You might also give a person a copy of your will too.

Once again a holographic will in Texas is better than no will in Texas.  However, if you have a large estate you might want to set up a trust or do something unusual.  Then only an attorney can help you.

Please don't buy a kit off the internet.

The best free website in Texas for info is

If you have no money, there are pro bono (free) legal clinics throughout Texas. Most will have you meet with an attorney and do your will and other highly recommended estate planning documents for free.

Lastly, if in doubt then I would hire an attorney and do it the right way.

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