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  • Writer's pictureAlexander J. Kemeny

What is a Holographic Will and Are Holographic Wills Valid in New Jersey?

What is a holographic will?

New Jersey estate planning

If you're unfamiliar with the term "holographic will," the term may bring to mind a document, pictures, or videos that appear in 3D or by some science fiction recording devise. In reality, it is a handwritten will that was written and signed by the person making the will but does not have been witnessed when being signed.

Are holographic wills valid in New Jersey?

        New Jersey is among the states where a holographic will is legal valid. To be a valid holographic will, the signing of the document does not have be witnessed, but the signature and material portions of the document must be in handwriting of the person making the will. The person making the will must also be at least eighteen years of age and competent to execute a will. They must also have testamentary intent; in other words, they must intend for the document to be their will.

What are the potential drawbacks of drafting a holographic will?

Executing a holographic will is often preferable to dying intestate (without a will), especially for those who have delayed estate planning until death is imminent. However, a holographic will can present various challenges during probate proceedings.

The Surrogate will not probate a holographic will like a traditional will. Instead, an application to the Superior Court must be filed by way of a Verified Complaint and notice given to all potential beneficiaries of the estate. The legal process for admitting a holographic will can be costly and time-consuming compared to a traditional typed and witnessed will. It may be necessary to retain handwriting experts and find individuals familiar with the testator’s handwriting.

Holographic wills often result in disputes that can prolong and increase the costs of the court proceedings, including disputes about the testator's mental capacity at the time the document was signed, whether someone exerted undue influence over the testator, and whether the holographic will is in the testator’s handwriting and authentic. Disagreements among family members, disappointed beneficiaries, and conflicting expert opinions can lead to costly legal battles.

Additionally, holographic wills are often prepared without legal counsel. As a result, they are often not as comprehensive as a will that is prepared by an attorney can leave out important provisions that would have been included if the testator had prepared the will with an experienced estate planning attorney. Estate planning often entails complexities that go beyond a surface level understanding of what might be in a traditional will and professional assistance can yield substantial benefits.

Why should you hire a New Jersey estate planning attorney?

If you are a New Jersey resident, you should retain an New Jersey estate planning lawyer to prepare a will. Creating a traditional will with the guidance of a qualified estate planning attorney can avoid confusion and unintended consequences. A formal will can be updated as needed and ensures that your final wishes are honored without the complications associated with holographic wills. Consulting an experienced estate lawyer can save heirs and beneficiaries time and stress in the long run.

The New Jersey trusts and estates lawyers at Kemeny, Ramp & Renaud, LLC are available to assist you. Call us at (732) 853-1725 to schedule a consultation.


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