HOLOGRAPHIC WILLS: Valid Handwritten Wills

These last few weeks so many people have wanted to get Wills done to make sure everything is in order.  This is a scary time.  It does make us think about death and dying.

Do you know that in Arizona it is legal to handwrite a Will? If you cannot get a formal Will prepared and signed, you still can make a valid Will yourself. This is called a holographic Will, and this article will tell you how to write one. But first, know what makes the holographic Will valid and what mistakes to avoid!

As in all Wills, a person must be at least 18 years of age to make a Will and of sound mind.  

For the holographic Will to be a valid, legal Will under Arizona law:

  • the material provisions of the Will must be completely in the handwriting of the person making the Will; and
  • it must be signed by the person making the Will

This means that a person making a Will must hand print or write out (in cursive) the Will document and then sign it; a friend or family member cannot print or write out the Will because that person has better handwriting! (Take the time necessary to make sure your writing is legible.) There are some Will forms available with “blanks” where you fill in the main provisions; these are valid holographic Wills only if the person making the Will handwrites in those main provisions and then signs the Will. The “fill-in” provisions in these Will forms cannot be typed in and then signed; that is not a valid holographic Will. A holographic Will does not require a witness; it only requires the signature of the person making the Will.

Do not type out a Will and then just sign it; that is not a valid Will. It may look nice and neat, but it is not a valid Will. A typed Will must be signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two witnesses. A typed Will that is signed and notarized is not a valid Will under Arizona law (unless it also includes two witnesses). Arizona law has strict execution requirements for a Will.

The following is a very basic outline of statements that can be followed to write a holographic Will:

  • This is my Last Will.
  • I am married/unmarried. My spouse is . . . . . . . . My child/ren are . . . . . . . . .
  • I make the following specific gift(s): (if you want to make specific gift(s) or leave this section out)
    • To . . . . . . I give my . . . . . . . . . .
    • To . . . . . . I give my . . . . . . . . . .
    • (repeat for each specific gift you want to make)
  • I leave the rest of my estate to . . . . . . . . . (person or charitable organization)
  • OR
  • I leave all of my estate to (if there are no specific gifts)
  • OR
  • I leave the rest of my estate as follows:
    • . . . . . . . .  % to . . . . . . . . . .
    • . . . . . . . .  % to . . . . . . . . . .
    • (repeat until 100% is given out)
  • I appoint . . . . . . . . . as my personal representative. (In Arizona an executor is called a personal representative.) If this person cannot act as personal representative, then I appoint . . . . . . . . . . to act as personal representative. No bond shall be required for the personal representative.
  • Dated:
  • Signed:

You can add other provisions, statements or sentiments that you wish to have in your Will. Some other provisions can include:

  • I revoke any prior Will made by me.
  • I want to be cremated. I would like my ashes scattered (place);
  • OR
  • I want to be buried at . . . with or next to . . .
  • I request that . . . . . . . be appointed as a guardian for my minor child/ren; if . . . . . . . . cannot serve as a guardian, I request that . . . . . . . . be appointed as the guardian.
  • Contingencies can be provided for: If . . . . . . . is not living at my death, I give his/her share of my estate to . . . . . . .

Keep the Will in a safe place and let your personal representative and/or your family know where you keep it. If you want to change your holographic Will, just write out a new one and destroy the other one; don’t leave two Wills around.

The information provided above complies with Arizona law. If you live in another State, you can check laws through your State’s legislative site to verify whether a holographic Will is valid in your State and what legal requirements must be observed to insure that it is valid. You can also find links to State information and legislative bodies here.

If you are in Arizona and would like to make a more formal Will yourself, the Arizona Legal Form Library can take you through the preparation process one step at a time. At the Library you will find basic Wills for married or unmarried persons, with or without children. Information about the provisions contained in these Wills can be found at the Library. All the Will forms comply with Arizona law and are prepared through an interactive library at a nominal fee. A Will from the Library must be signed in front of two witnesses and a notary after the Will has been prepared and printed; execution instructions are printed out with the Will.

If you need a Will with more complex provisions or prefer to have a Trust drafted, feel free to contact Cautela Corporation for assistance. Be well.