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 fully executed, 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.

Reconsider making a change by hand

To avoid the time and expense associated with formally updating your plan, it may be tempting to simply make the change by hand on your will and initial it. But this is almost always a bad idea. For one thing, handwritten changes are highly susceptible to challenge, which can 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 estate planning advisor and avoid the temptation to make handwritten changes.

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Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. All THK blogs are considered advertising material by the Indiana Bar Association.