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If It’s Important – Write It Down! But maybe not literally…

Larry King’s recent death and the finding of a Holographic (or handwritten) Will sheds light on the need for proper estate planning.  We often read about a few of the uber wealthy or famous and how they elected to utilize the hand-written approach for disposition of their millions.  Couple the Holographic Will with multiple marriages and children with various spouses, and you truly have the potential for a long and expensive legal battle.  One would think with their wealth and status in this country, that certainly expense was not an issue.  Is it time?  Is one so busy that they do not have the time to spend with an estate planning attorney during the day?  Or, most likely, it is accepting the reality that death will happen.  I often find it humorous in discussing estate planning with individuals that they will use the phrase “if I die.”  I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn’t IF but when.

Holographic Wills are wills that are written in one’s own handwriting.  They can be enforceable depending on the state of your residency and if the Will is properly executed.  In some states it may require that the Will have two witnesses or a notary.  State laws change constantly, and it appears that approximately half of the states in the United States permit the use of a Holographic Will to dispose of your property at your demise.  

The biggest challenge is proving the authenticity of the Holographic Will.  Perhaps if you are a person that is married to the same spouse for 50+ years and you have two children and all is well, a Holographic Will is an inexpensive and easy way to dispose of your property at your death.  It basically costs nothing more than your time to write out the Will.  Some may elect to use an online program to assist them.   

The advantages of a Holographic Will are few.  The most prominent being the cost – which is nothing.  Another advantage is that it can be done quickly and during “non business hours.”  

The disadvantages of a Holographic Will are lengthy.  An estate planning attorney has the expertise to avoid problems that can occur with an estate.  For example, who will serve as personal representative?  How to navigate a contested Will.  How are debts and taxes to be handled.  How to dispose of property left to a deceased individual.  How to properly align creditors of the estate for payment.  How to handle property owned with another individual or internationally.  

Additionally, when meeting with an attorney regarding your estate planning, there are mechanisms to avoid the probate process completely.  For example, the use of a trust would allow an individual to be taken care of during his/her incapacity as well as provide privacy upon his/her death as trusts are usually not filed with the probate court. 

Many times, the initial consultation with an attorney to discuss what type of planning you should be doing costs nothing.  At that time, other estate planning documents that may be of assistance to you, your wealth and your family may be discussed.  Along with that information will be the cost associated to provide these services.  

Though Holographic Wills may be legal in your resident state, they have the ability to bring about an entirely different set of problems as to validity and competence of the individual.  The right structure at your death can often save your family more money than the actual cost of having an estate planning attorney prepare your legal documents for you.  

Make the appointment!  Have the conversation!  And make your decision as an informed individual.  It is up to you to do it right!  If you have proper planning, at your death most will not even think about the potential problems that could arise.

For more information, please contact:

Jacqueline Jenkins, CTFA

Chief Fiduciary Officer / Managing Director

Phone: 561-515-6156 / Email:  

The posts expressed are views of FSTC and are not intended as advice or recommendations. For informational purposes only.  FSTC does not offer tax, legal, or investment advice, professional counsel should be sought for tax or legal advice.

Jacqueline Jenkins, CTFA
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