Holographic Wills

Holographic wills are frequently ambiguous, challenged by heirs and result in costly litigation.

A holographic will is one written in the handwriting of the person making the will. In Idaho a holographic will is valid, whether or not it is witnessed, if the signature and the material provisions are in the handwriting of the testator. (Idaho Code §15-2-503) Even though Idahoallows holographic wills, they can cause many problems.

A brief example illustrates this point. A woman brought in the will of her sister, who had recently passed away.  The sister had handwritten her will in a fill-in-the-blank form that she had obtained. Because of ill feelings toward some of her siblings, the sister had left her entire estate to the woman who had brought in the will, leaving nothing to her other 2 siblings.

When we filed the will for probate, it was quickly challenged as invalid by the excluded siblings because the material provisions were not completely in the handwriting of the sister. The woman who brought in the will claimed she had many witnesses who would testify that her sister intended to leave her everything; however, it was clear the will was invalid and the sister’s estate would be divided equally amoung the siblings under Idaho’s Intestate Laws. This is what eventually happened.

Holographic wills are frequently ambiguous, try to do things that cannot easily be done, lead to challenges by potential heirs and result in costly litigation.

If holographic wills foster litigation, which perpetuates feelings of bitterness among the heirs, it would be better to seek legal advice from an attorney in drafting the will.

Tom Packer is an Elder Care Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. If you have a question about a senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.