Lagniappe (aka Blog)

206-926-9848

Are Handwritten Wills Valid?

Posted by Judy Nakashima Shoji | Feb 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

Larry King died on January 23 at the age of 87. In a petition filed on February 10, his son, Larry Jr., submitted a handwritten will stating that he wanted all of his estate divided equally among his children.

At the time of his death, King was in the middle of divorce proceedings, but the divorce had not been finalized.

Shawn Southwick, Larry King's widow, is now challenging the legitimacy of this handwritten will in an estate battle. She argues he had suffered a stroke and had questionable mental capacity, causing this will to have no legal effect.

She also argues her stepson exerted undue influence over her husband toward the end of his life, leaving an open-ended question about the validity of King's will.

Are handwritten wills valid?

A will can be handwritten (known as a "holographic will") so long as it meets the requirements outlined by the state in which the creator resides. In Washington, any person who is of sound mind and 18 or older may make a last will and testament.

At a minimum, the document itself must be in writing, signed by the testator (or by someone else at the testator's direction and in the testator's presence), and in the presence of two competent witnesses. The two witnesses must either sign the will or sign an affidavit in the presence of a notary swearing the facts needed to prove the will belongs to the testator. This is true for any amendment or codicils to the original will as well.

It is important to note that these are only the absolute minimum requirements a document must have before a court accepts a document is a will and agrees to enforce it. However, drafting a proper will requires doing much more than meeting these minimum requirements.

A will can be a complicated matter and helped by a skilled trusts and estates attorney.

Trusts and estates attorneys go to school for years and then receive specialized training to have the skills necessary to create an enforceable will that carries out the creator's wishes according to their original intent. 

Every adult should have a well-drafted will, especially if they are married and have children. That means a will can be one of the most significant legal documents you will ever create.

An improperly written will or incorrectly executed one can end up failing, but you will never know this. Instead, your family, the people you love most in the world and want to protect, will find out only after your death. 

Think of it this way; do you want your final writing to your family to be an accurate reflection of your goals? Do you want fewer problems for your family in the future? Or do you want to increase conflict among family members? Or create family conflict where there was never any before?

As we can see from Larry King's family's situation, money often rears its ugly head as a major issue following death. Therefore, when you create a will, you should have advice and counsel from a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure your document will lay the foundation you intend.

An invalid will is the same as having no will at all, so it is critical to make sure your will complies with all the formalities. An estate planning lawyer can help.

Are DIY wills a good idea?

Many DIY options may seem like a good option, especially because they are a bargain compared to hiring an estate planning attorney. But many of those DIY wills are simple fill-in-the-blank forms. Though the process may seem cheap and easy enough, it comes with many risks.

Having your affairs in order can give you peace of mind. Don't risk your legacy. Contact us today to get started

About the Author

Judy Nakashima Shoji

Judy prides herself on being approachable, down to earth and willing to answer any questions hr clients may have. She is a Seattle native. She attended the University of Washington, Tokyo University and Seattle University School of Law. She was a legal intern in the Civil Division of the Seattle City Attorney's Office and at Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company located in Shinjuku, Japan. Judy advises clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate and adoptions. She also serves as a Title 11 court appointed investigator in guardianship cases for King County Superior Court. She cannot think of any areas in which she would rather practice. She invests in learning about her client's whole story which creates a friendly environment in which she can provide more effective assistance. Her goal is for her estate planning clients to walk away with a customized, detailed, realistic, and clear estate plan which will accomplish their wishes. Estate planning can be uncomfortable and confusing and her goal is to explain complicated legal options in a way that is easy to understand and clear. Her desire is to provide peace of mind and clarity for her clients while also giving them the information necessary to make well informed decision. Judy has been a member of the Elder Law and Real Property and Trust sections of the Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association. She has been a volunteer attorney with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Clinic and Pro Bono Services for the past 14 years where she was recognized as volunteer of the month in October 2014. Judy is married with three children. Outside of work she enjoys traveling to sunny locations, exercising (HIIT and barbell classes keep her grounded) and spending time with the people (and animals) she loves.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Areas We Serve

At Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC, we represent clients from Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, and the surrounding region, including all of King County and the cities of Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Federal Way, Shoreline, Des Moines, Bainbridge Island, Vashon, Auburn, Renton and Puyallup. We love working with clients from Seattle's unique, eclectic neighborhoods: West Seattle, Fremont, Ballard, Madrona, Queen Anne, Greenwood, Ravenna, Maple Leaf, Wedgewood, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, Windermere, Madison Park, Magnolia, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Broadmoor, Phinney Ridge, Crown Hill, Yarrow Point and Mercer Island.

Contact Us

Call us at (206) 926-9848
Email: [email protected]

We'll be happy to set up an initial consult. Thank you for looking around our site. We look forward to serving you.

We welcome your email, but please understand that if you are not already a client of Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC, we cannot represent you until we confirm that representing you would not create a conflict of interest. Please do not include any confidential information until we verify that our office is in a position to represent you and our engagement is confirmed in writing. Prior to that time, there is no legal representation and thus no attorney-client confidentiality.

Thank you.

Elise Buie Family Law Group

jumping_20orca-compressor.jpg

Elise Buie Family Law Group PLLC
1001 Fourth Avenue, 44th Floor   Seattle, WA 98154

Menu