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Understanding holographic wills and their legality in Minnesota

Gregory A. Lang

Different people have different ideas on what a will should be. Some may think it's a document drawn up by an attorney and signed in the presence of witnesses. Others may see it as something that can be written up on one's own on a piece of notebook paper as long as it's also signed. Neither of these are incorrect, but a holographic will most resembles the latter. Due to Minnesota state law, though, citizens should understand the basics of these wills before creating them.

Holographic wills are handwritten wills that the testator has produced and signed on their own. One Canadian man actually carved out his last will and testament on the fender of a tractor that had fallen on and trapped him. The courts upheld this will, but American law can be quite different than Canadian. In fact, many states won't even recognize a holographic will, so the law varies within the country as well.

Some states only require that a testator write a will containing their wishes and sign it while of sound mental capacity. In Minnesota, though, there must be two additional signatures from witnesses. Minnesota requires a will to be in writing. While this is similar to a holographic will, it differs due to witness requirement.

The law related to holographic wills isn't very complex, but there are numerous nuances that could result in a will being found invalid. Failing to understand the probate law related to wills could result in a judge deciding who gets what property after the death of a family member. With legal help, however, an individual can ensure that all of the proper criteria are met so that their last wishes are carried out after they pass on.

Source: University of Saskatchewan, "The last will and testament of Cecil George Harris," Jan. 23, 2009.

Source: Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "Minnesota Statutes 524.2-502."

Source: Investopedia, "Holographic Will", November 06, 2014

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