Is a Handwritten Will Valid in Arizona?
Don’t let your family be blindsided by an invalid will. If you’ve already handwritten your will, or if you are considering writing one, it’s important to understand whether or not it is valid in Arizona. Here’s everything you need to know about handwritten wills in our state.
What Are the Requirements for Handwritten Wills?
A will is a legal document that gives instructions on how you (the testator) wish your assets to be distributed to your beneficiaries after you pass away. A handwritten will, or “holographic” will does not need to be witnessed by others. However, a handwritten will is only valid in Arizona as long as it meets certain requirements.
In order for a handwritten will to be considered valid in Arizona, it must meet the following requirements:
- The will must be written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting
- The testator must be at least 18 years old at the time of writing
- The document itself (not just the envelope or folder it is in) must be signed by the testator
- The testator must sign their full name, not just their initials
- The testator must have written the will while they had testamentary capacity
Having “testamentary capacity” is also referred to as “being of sound mind.” This means that you fully understood what the will would do, the extent of your property, and who your beneficiaries are when you wrote the will.
Testators who are intoxicated, suffering from late-stage dementia, have Alzheimer’s disease, are in a coma, or otherwise have limited mental capacity due to disease, illness, or injury are not considered to have testamentary capacity.
Proving that the will was written by the testator isn’t always a simple process. A close family member may need to testify that the handwriting is authentic, or a handwriting expert may need to be called in to validate the will.
What Can Make a Handwritten Will Invalid?
A holographic will can be deemed invalid by the probate court due to the following factors:
- The testator was under 18 at the time of writing
- Any portion of the will is not in the testator’s handwriting
- The testator did not sign the will, or the signature is not in the testator’s own handwriting
- Part of the will is typed, but the document does not contain two witness signatures
- The testator was not of sound mind when they wrote the will
- The testator was pressured by someone else to write the will
Should You Handwrite Your Will?
It can be useful to write a holographic will in an emergency when you don’t have another will in place. It’s always important to have a valid will, no matter the type, to ensure that your assets will pass to the loved ones of your choice. If you die intestate (without a will), the court will distribute your assets to your next of kin.
However, it’s better to compose your will ahead of time with the help of an experienced attorney, instead of waiting to write one in an emergency situation. A typed will is much easier to read and eliminates confusion when it comes time to distribute your assets. Working with an attorney will help you avoid mistakes and ensure that your will meets all of the necessary legal requirements for it to be considered valid in Arizona.
Do You Need Help Writing Your Will?
If you need help drafting a valid will, contact the team at Phelps LaClair. We’ve been assisting Arizonans with composing their wills for over 40 years. We’ll help you write a valid will that covers all of your wishes. Call us at 480-892-2488 today to schedule a free consultation.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/10/2023). Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash