The Dangers of a Handwritten Will
After Jessa passed away, her sister went through her personal effects. She found a document in a ledger that appeared to be a two-page handwritten will. The first page met all of the requirements to be admitted to probate – Jessa had signed and dated the first page and, the first line of the first page had stated, “Inasmuch as I do not have a will, I would like to make the following arrangements in the event of my death.”
A second page was folded with the first, but the two pages were not stapled or clipped together. Both pages were initialed and dated with the same date at the top, however Jessa’s signature was only at the bottom of the first page. The second page was initialed and dated but not signed.
At the Probate Hearing, the Court determined the first of the two pages expressed Jessa’s intent and admitted it as a will. The second page, however, was not signed by Jessa and did not reference the first page at all – nor did it meet the requirements to be considered an amendment of the first page. Further, the second page disposed of Jessa’s property differently than the first page in both who received money and who received personal effects.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court and only allowed the first page to be considered Jessa’s will.
This case recognizes two things about handwritten wills:
Oklahoma law allows a person to write out their own will.
However, that will must be completely handwritten by the person making the will, it must be dated and it must be signed. In this particular instance, though, terms of the will must agree with one another and be consistent.
This case doesn’t reveal how large Jessa’s estate was but, because of the defects in the handwritten will, it’s very possible that someone failed to receive a portion of Jessa’s estate that she wanted them to have. Oklahoma law may allow you to write out your own will, but a better option is to use an attorney so your intentions are clear to everyone – including the court.