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Will the terms of a handwritten will be enforced?

Many Oklahoma residents who wish to prepare their own wills do not have access to computers or printers. They may elect to write out their wills by hand instead. Those without a legal background may have questions about whether such a will is enforceable in probate court.

Wills that are written, dated and signed entirely in the testator's handwriting and that have no typed or printed sections are valid. Like other wills prepared on computers or typewriters, estates covered under handwritten wills go to probate court after the testator's death. While these wills are valid, the people who write them may not have included important information such as who may receive portions of their estate should one or more beneficiaries die or who should represent the estate after the testator's death and what actions that person can carry out.

People who write their wills by hand may not have a thorough knowledge of their family members' rights to portions of their estates. There may be many reasons that the person may wish that all or part of their assets go to their chosen beneficiary instead of to a spouse or child. However, Oklahoma law protects surviving spouses' rights to part of a deceased person's estate. Surviving spouses may choose to take part of an estate, regardless of how the will dictates the deceased person's assets be distributed. Children also have rights to portions of estates in certain cases.

Most people do not have the knowledge of probate law needed to write a will that exactly expresses their wishes after their deaths. Attorneys experienced in estate planning typically have an understanding of the laws governing wills and trusts, and they may be able to provide their clients with the guidance they need to ensure that the people they care about are provided for in their estates.

Source: Oklahoma Bar Association, "Do You Need A Will Or Trust?", accessed on Jan. 12, 2015

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