What is a holographic will?

A holographic will is a will that is entirely handwritten by the testator. For a holographic will to be valid in West Virginia, there are three requirements. First, the entire will must be in the handwriting of the testator. Any words not in the testator’s handwriting will be excluded from the will. Second, a holographic will must be signed by the testator with either a signature or a mark intended as a signature. The will does not have to be signed by any witnesses. The third requirement for a holographic will is that it must have testamentary intent. 

If a holographic will is never contested, the will is valid and all of the property will be distributed according to the will. However, it is important to be cautious in writing a holographic will. Because witnesses do not have to sign the will, there is no evidence to support the will if it is contested. In addition, holographic wills are often incomplete. Without the guidance of a lawyer, many people fail to effectively distribute their property and provide for all situations. In such a circumstance, your property may not be distributed as you wished.  

For more information, see: W. Va. Code § 41-1-3 (2015); Dantzic v. Dantzic, 222 W. Va. 535, 668 S.E. 2d 164 (2008); In re Estate of Teubert, 171 W. Va. 226, 298 S.E.2d 456 (1982); Matheny v. Matheny, 182 W. Va. 790, 392 S.E.2d 230 (1990); Black v. Maxwell, 131 W. Va. 247, 46 S.E.2d 804 (1948); In re Estate of Briggs, 148 W. Va. 294, 134 S.E.2d 737 (1964); Guaranty National Bank v. Morris, 176 W. Va. 228, 342 S.E.2d 194 (1986); Seifert v. Sanders, 178 W. Va. 214, 358 S.E.2d 775 (1987), commented on in 90 W. Va. L. Rev. 725 (1988); Clark v. Studenwalt, 187 W. Va. 368, 419 S.E.2d 308 (1992); Charleston National Bank v. Thru the Bible Radio Network, 203 W. Va. 345, 507 S.E.2d 708 (1998); 20 Michie’s Jurisprudence Wills § 42 (2010).