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Making will revisions by hand is rarely a good idea

The laws regarding the execution of a valid will vary from state to state, but typically they require certain formalities. These may include signing the will in the presence of witnesses and a notary public.

But what happens if, after your will and other estate planning documents are completed, you need to make a change? Perhaps you’ve welcomed a new grandchild to the family or need to change the way your assets are distributed.

To avoid the time and expense associated with formally updating your will, it may be tempting to simply make the change by hand and initial it. But this is almost always a bad idea. For one thing, handwritten changes are highly susceptible to a challenge, which may result in a protracted probate court battle. So much for saving time and money. Even worse, depending on the law in your state, handwritten changes may not be binding.

Many states permit so-called “holographic wills.” These handwritten wills are valid if they meet certain requirements. Typically, the maker of the will must write the will by hand and sign and date it. Some states permit handwritten changes to a typewritten will if the changes meet all the requirements of a holographic will. That means each change must be handwritten, signed and dated. In other states, handwritten changes must satisfy the same formalities (such as witnesses and notarization) as for typewritten wills.

To ensure that your estate planning goals are carried out, discuss your needs with your attorney and avoid the temptation to make handwritten changes.

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