Many modern estate plans and last wills are computerized documents. Individuals either create them using a digital template or pay an attorney to create customized paperwork for them. However, especially if your parents are older, they may have a handwritten will instead. Some people just assume that handwritten last wills won’t hold up in probate court, but that isn’t always true.
Also known as a holographic will, a last will written out by your loved one can sometimes stand up under scrutiny in probate court. It simply needs to meet certain requirements for the courts to enforce the terms set in the handwritten document.
The paperwork must have proper signatures and witnesses
As with any last will or estate plan, a holographic last will must have a signature from the testator creating the document. The testator generally needs to have written the entire document themselves.
The issue with such documents is that they often don’t include the right language or instructions. They may be open to challenges brought by family members who aren’t happy with the terms set in the document. Testators trying to write their own wills may not understand the probate laws in Arizona or the right way to work their final wishes to ensure they are enforceable.
How do you validate a handwritten will?
As the child of your parents, you are in a unique position to validate that the handwriting in the document is theirs. If you and your siblings are their family members disagree about who wrote the document, there are professionals who can help analyze both handwriting and signatures.
Beyond the handwriting and signatures, a careful review of the terms can also help determine if fraud might be an issue with a handwritten last will. Your parents probably told you about their estate wishes while they were still alive. If the document left behind completely contradicts those plans, you may have reason to worry about fraud. If it aligns with their previously reported wishes, that increases the chances that your parents really did write that holographic last will themselves.
Understanding how the Arizona probate courts handle handwritten last wills will make it easier for you to navigate your parents’ estate or help you convince them to upgrade their handwritten documents to a professionally drafted estate plan.