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Will Handwritten Changes to a Will Hold Up in Court?

When it comes to revising a Will, tread carefully…because handwritten changes to a Will may not hold up in court. Here’s an example:

Handwritten Changes to a Will

A decedent executed a formal Will that was typed, witnessed and acknowledged by a notary, and later made revisions in his own handwriting on the face of the original. The decedent dated and initialed the changes.

The question is whether or not the changes are valid, and if not, whether or not the original Will is still valid notwithstanding the changes?

Handwritten Changes to a Will are Risky

First, your Will is a very solemn, formal document. It speaks for you after death. Unless it is 100 percent in the handwriting of the decedent (known as a holographic Will), it needs to be witnessed by at least two individuals, and is always a good practice to sign before a notary. It is risky to attempt to change the Will by crossing out provisions and inserting new ones.

Nevertheless, our courts have held that handwritten changes to an original typed Will may be valid, but only if the court determines that the decedent actually made those changes (and not someone else) and the decedent signs or initials the changes. The court’s reasoning is that the changes may be considered a holographic Will codicil (an addition to the Will made entirely in the decedent’s handwriting).

At Praesidium Law, we have seen too many occasions where a formal, typewritten Will has been modified by hand, sometimes in pencil, and not initialed or dated. Changes of that nature are not going to be enforceable because it would be impossible for the court to determine if the decedent actually made them. In those cases, the true wishes of the decedent are not going to be followed; however, the original Will would still be valid as long as the court determines that it represented the decedent’s last Will and Testament.

Once again, we would strongly urge anyone desiring to update a Will to do so formally, and not by making handwritten, scratched-out changes. That is a dangerous practice and could lead to your final wishes not being followed.


At Praesidium Law, we focus on all aspects of estate planning. Let’s schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you with your Will, or a more comprehensive Estate Plan. Please call 480.491.3216 or contact us online.

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