Handwritten Wills in New Jersey: Are They Legal?

January 26, 2022

Though Handwritten Wills Are Accepted as Valid Documents in New Jersey, It Is Still Important to Have your Document Reviewed by a Seasoned Estate Planning Lawyer to Avoid Later Issues in Court

A person’s Last Will and Testament is an important document not only in instruction but in precedent. It preserves and maintains a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets and properties. Their will plays a key role in their legacy. As such, the New Jersey legal system is committed to honoring a person’s Last Will and Testament and ensuring that their wishes are carried out, assuming that the document is legally enforceable. Learn more about an informally drafted type of Last Will and Testament called a Holographic Will and its enforceability and legality in New Jersey in order to best prepare and advocate for yourself and your loved ones both in life and in death.

What is a Holographic Will?

According to New Jersey Statutes 3B:3-2B, a Holographic Will is a very informal document that is written in the Decedent’s handwriting and signed by them. A Holographic Will is a legally enforceable document, that is, provided it meets the necessary criteria. Regardless of the informality of the document – be it typed or written on a piece of paper – if a Will meets the requirements of a Holographic Will by being proven written and signed by the Decedent and not another person, the court will uphold its directives.

Confirming the Validity of a Handwritten Will in New Jersey

As noted above, the requirements that make a Will a legally enforceable Holographic, or Handwritten, Will are that it is written in the handwriting of the Decedent and is signed by them. As such, while it is highly recommended that a Last Will and Testament be drawn up or at least reviewed by a qualified lawyer, it is not necessary for legality’s sake.

Holographic Wills and New Jersey Court Admissibility

A handwritten, or Holographic, Will can be submitted in much the same way that any other Will is submitted for probate. If the court determines the document to be a legally-binding original written and signed by the Decedent, it will be admitted into probate as a valid legal document. As such, the court will consider the desires of the Decedent expressed in the ultimate Will to be legally enforceable and carried out, regardless of whether there is another document conflicting its directives (upon review of all documents to determine which is the Last Will).

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Holographic Will in NJ

Estate Planning Lawyers Explain Holographic Wills in NJAs could be assumed, a Holographic Will is easier and less costly to draft, as it can be done in the absence of a lawyer, and doesn’t even require a witness. A Holographic Will is also more personalized than other formally drafted documents and allows the Decedent to describe exactly how they would like their assets distributed and why. These all make for some sure advantages to an informal process of drafting a Last Will and Testament.

On the other hand, there are some serious disadvantages to the approach that may outweigh the benefits. For example, a Holographic Will, due to its informality and absence of legal support in foundational development, is much more likely to be contested in court. There is more likely that the court will not accept parts or the entirety of a handwritten will due to illegibility or problematic language that leaves room for the court’s discretion.

What If My Handwritten Will is Not Accepted?

As noted above, one of the disadvantages of a Holographic Will is that there is a much higher likelihood that it will not be accepted as legitimate. If all or part of a Decedent’s handwritten Last Will and Testament is not accepted, the court will use its jurisdiction to determine the correct way to distribute assets according to New Jersey law.

An Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer can Improve the Chances that Your Will is Upheld

Because a Last Will and Testament is such a crucial component of one’s end-of-life documents and determines how a Decedent’s remaining assets will be passed on, it is essential that care be taken to ensure that the documents submitted are admissible to probate and will be carried out according to the Decedent’s wishes. While an informal, handwritten Will can be deemed a legitimate Holographic version under certain circumstances, it is much more likely that every aspect of the Will will be respected and carried out if the original document is drafted or reviewed by an experienced New Jersey estate planning lawyer.

Plan Ahead for Your Last Will and Testament in NJ, Consult a Knowledgeable Middletown Estate Planning Lawyer

Entrusting your case to a professional is a solid choice when it comes to creating a valid, enforceable, and comprehensive estate plan. At The Law Office of Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh, we understand the importance of a quality Last Will and Testament. If your loved one has passed and you are wondering if their written will now stand the test of legitimacy in court, we are on your side. No matter the situation, our experienced attorneys can help to ensure that the Decedent’s wishes, whether that be you or your loved one passed, are carried out.

Our wills and estates lawyers compassionately and adeptly represent clients in Rumson, Red Bank, Little Silver, Freehold, Holmdel, Neptune, and neighboring municipalities throughout Monmouth County, in order that their legacy and the distribution of their assets be fully honored.

Contact us at (732) 440-3950 or toll-free at 888-328-9131 for a free consultation to discuss your estate and its future.

Categorised in: Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts