Holographic Will

Wills serve as foundational documents, outlining the disposition of an individual’s assets upon their demise.

Traditionally, these wills are formal, typewritten documents often requiring legal assistance to draft.

However, a unique category of will exists known as “holographic wills.”

Holographic wills are distinct in form and substance, as the testator handwrites them without witnesses.

This article will delve into holographic wills’ legal validity and implications, shedding light on their role in estate planning.

Defining Holographic Wills

A holographic will is a last will written by hand and signed by the testator. 

Unlike formal wills, holographic wills do not require the presence of witnesses during their creation.

It makes them a more accessible option for some individuals.

These wills often come into play when a testator needs to draft a will in haste.

These are during emergencies or when legal assistance is not readily available.

Legal Validity

The legal validity of holographic wills varies from one jurisdiction to another.

Holographic wills are recognized in many jurisdictions, provided they meet specific criteria. Generally, these criteria include:


The entire will, including the material provisions and the signature, must be handwritten by the testator.

Typewritten or pre-printed clauses are generally not accepted.

Testator’s Intent: 

The document must clearly express the testator’s intent to distribute their assets upon their death.

Testator’s Signature: 

The holographic will must be signed by the testator.

This signature should typically be found at the end of the document.

No Witnesses: 

Unlike formal wills, holographic wills do not require witnesses.

The testator’s handwritten content and signature stand as the only evidence of their intent.

Example 1: Sarah’s Last-Minute Holographic Will

Background Scenario:

Sarah is a single mother of two children, Emma and James. She’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wants to ensure her children are taken care of after her passing. Sarah doesn’t have the time or resources to consult with an attorney or create a formal will. She decides to write a holographic will.

Holographic Will:

Sarah writes a handwritten letter stating:

“I, Sarah Thompson, being of sound mind, leave all my belongings, including my house and savings, to my children, Emma and James. I also appoint my sister, Lisa, as their guardian. This is my last will and testament. Today’s date is September 22, 2023.”

Sarah signs and dates the letter at the bottom. She leaves it on her kitchen table for her sister to find after her passing.

In this scenario, Sarah’s handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is a valid document in some jurisdictions because it is entirely in her own handwriting, signed, and dated. It outlines her wishes for the distribution of her assets and the appointment of a guardian for her children.

Example 2: Tom’s Holographic Will On A Napkin

Background Scenario:

Tom is an adventurous person who enjoys spontaneous activities. He’s on a solo hiking trip and unexpectedly faces a life-threatening situation, prompting him to create a holographic will as he doesn’t have access to any formal legal documents.

Holographic Will:

Tom finds a napkin in his backpack and quickly writes:

I, Tom Miller, in case something happens to me during this hike, leave all my possessions to my friend, Alex. He knows what to do with them. Today’s date is July 10, 2023.”

Tom signs the napkin with his name and date, and he informs a fellow hiker, Jane, about the napkin’s location.

In this scenario, Tom’s napkin-written holographic will can be considered valid in some jurisdictions as it meets the criteria of being entirely in his own handwriting, signed, and dated.

However, because the circumstances are less formal, there might be questions about its validity, and it’s always preferable to consult with an attorney and create a formal will when possible.