A will is a written document that allows you to leave instructions for the distribution of your assets after you die and to select someone you trust (an executor) to carry out your estate plan.
But, before your executor can follow the instructions left in your will, your will must be approved by the probate court as legally valid. In Colorado, this normally means that the will must be signed and witnessed by two people or notarized.
However, a holographic will need not be witnessed or notarized as long as it meets certain requirements.
So, What is a Holographic Will?
Contrary to how it might sound, a holographic will is not very high-tech. It's not a will sent by hologram, like the messages sent in some futuristic Sci-fi movies.
In fact, a holographic will uses very old technology - handwriting. A holographic will is just a fancy way of saying a handwritten will.
Do Holographic Wills Work?
Yes. A holographic will can be perfectly valid in Colorado. The catch is that in order for a holographic will to be valid, it must meet the following requirements:
- The material parts of the will (i.e the most important parts) have to be written in your own handwriting;
- The will must be signed by you; and
- There must be sufficient evidence that you actually intended the document to be your last will and testament.
So, while most Colorado wills must be either witnessed by two parties or notarized, a holographic will can be deemed valid and legal without any witnesses at all.
Holographic Will Drawbacks
Holographic wills are typically prepared without the help of an attorney. As a result, they are more likely to contain inconsistencies and to result in unforeseen consequences.
Furthermore, holographic wills are more likely to be legally challenged. And if your holographic will is contested in court, there is always the chance that the case will have to go all the way to trial.
As you can imagine, going to trial to defend a will can get expensive. So, while you may save a few hundred dollars by handwriting a will yourself instead of hiring an attorney to prepare your will, your estate may end up paying thousands of dollars in litigation costs. Even worse, there will be a chance that your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets may never be fulfilled if your handwritten will is declared invalid.
A holographic will is also more likely to be overlooked. When you hire an attorney to prepare a will, your signing of the will has to be witnessed by two individuals. Therefore, there will be at least two people who know of the existence of your will. But with a holographic will, there is always the chance that nobody will know of the will’s existence and that it will never be found and used to distribute your estate.
Other Things About Holographic Wills To Keep In Mind
It is widely recommended that you only prepare a holographic will as a last resort. For example, if you are trapped in your car, in a deserted area, during a snowstorm, and you are worried about freezing to death, then a holographic will might be sensible. But, in most every other case, a holographic will should be avoided.
If you do happen to write a holographic will, you should keep the will short and easy to understand. A good holographic will might only contain one or two simple statements, such as:
"I leave everything to my wife and appoint her as my executor."
- "I leave everything in equal shares to my children. In addition, I appoint my oldest child, Robert, as the executor of my estate."
You must also remember to date and sign the holographic will, but you shouldn't go into detail about how you want your CD collection to be divided, for example.
Drafting a Will
A properly prepared holographic will may be honored by the court to fulfill your testamentary wishes. But, a holographic will is more likely to result in unexpected consequences and to be contested.
Proving a contested will can be a long, stressful, and expensive process. So, while a holographic will may seem like an inexpensive way to distribute your estate, it could end costing your estate a lot more money than you save.
All of this can be avoided with a little bit of planning and the help of a qualified and experienced estate planning attorney. If you care who inherits from your estate and about saving them time and money, don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Contact our qualified and experienced Colorado estate planning attorneys to assist with the preparation of your will by contacting us through the contact link on our website.