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Do-It-Yourself Guide for Handwritten Wills

Wills & Estate Planning

Handwritten wills can be valid under specific circumstances.

Texas law sometimes recognizes handwritten, or "holographic," wills. Learn the steps you need to take and the information you need to include in order for a handwritten will to be valid.

What are my options if I want to create a will?

There are two ways to have a valid will in Texas. One way is with a holographic will, which is examined below. The other way is with a formal will, which must be witnessed.

A handwritten will might not be appropriate for your situation. For a formal will template, TexasLawHelp also carries the Will Forms - Approved by the Supreme Court of Texas.

What is a holographic will?

A holographic will is a will that is entirely in your own handwriting. If done correctly, it is valid and can be legally enforced. To make a valid handwritten will in Texas, the entire document must be in your own handwriting.

No one can write any part of it except for you and no part of it can be typed. You can write in cursive or print, but the entire will must be in your handwriting only.

You must write legibly so other people can easily read and understand what you wrote.

How do you make a valid holographic will in Texas?

To make a valid holographic will in Texas, it is recommended you do the following:

  • Write that it is your will.
  • Write who you want to receive your belongings.
  • Write who you want to serve as the “independent executor.”
    • This is someone you trust to show your will to a court, pay your debts, and give out your belongings.
    • They can be the same person who receives your belongings.
  • Write that you want your independent executor to “serve without bond.”
    • Note: To “serve without bond” means that your “independent executor” will not have to give money to the court for a bond.
    • Courts usually require a bond to make sure money is not stolen or misused. But if you trust this person, using this language makes it easier for them to give out your belongings.
  • Put the date that you write the will.
  • Sign the will.

Do I have to sign the handwritten will in front of a notary?

Your handwritten “holographic” will does not need to be signed in front of witnesses or a notary.

When you write your will, it is best to write in blue ink. Then, if a copy is made, it will be easier to tell which is the original. Place your will in a safe place and tell your independent executor where this is.

Where can I find a sample handwritten will?

Houston Volunteer Lawyers created two simple sample holographic wills.

If you use one of them, you must copy the sample to another sheet so that it is written in your own handwriting.

I'm still worried about doing it wrong. Who can I talk to?

You should speak with an attorney to discuss your estate planning needs if you are able. Having a formal will written by a lawyer is recommended and a holographic will should be used in more emergency situations.

If you need help finding a lawyer, you can: 

Visit Houston Volunteer Lawyers for the most up-to-date version of this document. 

This do-it-yourself guide by the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program was created in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting limits on people's ability to meet with attorneys and others.

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