Your parent or grandparent passes away, so you naturally search for the will that they said they’d prepared. To your dismay, it’s written entirely by hand, and it doesn’t appear that an attorney was ever involved in the process.
Is this legal? Maybe. While not every state recognizes handwritten (also called “holographic” wills), Mississippi does under certain circumstances:
- It must clearly be intended to be a will (not just a letter of some kind to the heirs that discusses their wishes.)
- It must be entirely written out by hand by the testator (deceased). It cannot, for example, be a form of some kind with fill-in-the-blank spaces that the testator completed.
- It must be dated and signed by the testator.
On one hand, you can breathe a sigh of relief if the will meets those requirements. On the other, you could still be in for some trouble. Because handwritten wills like these aren’t formally witnessed, two people with no interest in the estate must present testimony or affidavits that the handwriting is authentic. You may have trouble finding two people who are familiar enough with the deceased’s handwriting to make those statements to the court. You could also have problems if an heir contests the will, claiming that the handwriting isn’t the deceased’s.
Another problem you may encounter is the wording of the will may be unclear or offer conflicting directions. In those cases, the court may have to decide what the testator meant — or what should be done to settle the estate.
While handwritten wills are definitely legal in Mississippi, they aren’t the wisest route to go. Encourage your loved ones to get a will drawn up by someone with experience and skill to avoid problems later.