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Why You Should not use a Holographic Will

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

We are Idaho estate planning attorneys. Because of this, it’s obvious that it would be in our best interests for all of our clients to come to us for their estate planning needs. The purpose of this article is to describe the reasons why an individual should not try to do estate planning on their own, including doing what is known as a holographic will.

In Idaho, there are two kinds of Wills that are considered valid. The first is what is known as a formal written will which is done by an attorney, is typed up, has two witnesses, and is also notarized. Idaho also recognizes holographic Wills. A holographic Will is one that is completely in the handwriting of the individual themselves, is signed and dated. Both of these types of Wills are considered valid in Idaho. However, these types of Wills are usually very different in content. Because of this, we believe that in order to really carry out the true intents and wishes of our clients, they should get the assistance of a qualified Idaho estate planning attorney in creating their last will and testament.

At the Racine law office, our premier team of Idaho estate planning attorneys have assisted clients in the creation of their customized estate planning documents, including the last will and testament for over 70 years. Our team of attorneys have the skill, experience, and knowledge necessary to understand and prepare documents that will be both valid under Idaho law and will carry out the specific instructions of each of our clients. While its true that a person could create their own Will, below are the three main reasons why we believe you should not use a holographic Will as part of your estate planning.

The Will may not Satisfy the Law

The first reason that we believe you should not use a holographic Will as part of your estate planning is that it simply may not satisfy the law. While a holographic Will is not complicated, there are some specific things that need to be done in order for it to be considered valid. Most individuals do not understand what those basic requirements are. As a result, they may not do a holographic will correctly which means that it would be invalid under existing law.

The main problem is that a person will not know whether the holographic Will is valid or not until it is presented to a court. This will be done after the individual who creates the holographic Will has already passed away. As a result, it’s only after the person has died, that a determination will be made whether or not the Will is valid and enforceable. If the will is not valid, because it does not satisfy Idaho law, it’s too late to do anything about it after the person has passed away. If the Will is determined to not be valid, then the deceased person’s estate will be distributed based on the laws of intestacy, rather than on what was written in the holographic Will. In our experience this almost always means that your property, money, and assets will be distributed to someone different than who you would have wanted.

The Will may not be Complete

The second reason that we discourage people from using a holographic Will is simply that it may not be complete. In past instances a client created a valid holographic Will, but failed to put additional information in it that is necessary to carry out their instructions.

For example, we often see holographic Wills that do not name a personal representative. The personal representative is the individual who is tasked with the responsibility of probating the Will, and making sure that all the instruction set forth in the Will are carried out. If the Will itself does not nominate a personal representative, then Idaho statutes determine who the personal representative can be. This can often lead to a family fight or disagreement about who should be appointed as a personal representative. These kinds of family fights often are expensive, time-consuming, and often lead to destroyed relationships between family members.

The Purpose of a Will is to Solve Problems not Create Them

This leads us to the third reason that we suggest that you not use a holographic Will as part of your estate planning. The third reason is simply this, the purpose of your Will is to solve problems and not create them. One of the major goals that we try to accomplish when we assist our clients with their estate planning is to help maintain family relationships after they have passed away.

We find that family relationships are often restrained or destroyed when there are issues that arise that family members don’t agree on. This happens more often with holographic Wills than it does with a well-planned out and attorney drafted last will and testament. Estate planning attorneys have dealt with family disagreements and have seen family relationships be destroyed. As a result, when they are creating your last will and testament, they have these experiences in mind and are working to maintain your family relationships as part of your written last will and testament.

We have also found that any money that a client may have saved by doing their own holographic Will is usually lost many times over when family fights arise and litigation must be dealt with. In the end, it is far less expensive to have a qualified Idaho estate planning attorney complete a person’s written last will and testament and other estate planning documents in the first place.

If you are concerned about how your own last will and testament may affect your family and how it may distribute your money, property, and assets after you pass away, we can help you!

Enlist an Idaho Business Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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