A holographic will is a will that has been handwritten and signed by the testator. Normally, a will must be signed by witnesses attesting to the validity of the testator’s signature and intent. In many cases, a holographic will signed without a witness can be treated as valid and need only to meet minimal requirements:
- There must be evidence that the testator actually created the will.
- Thetestator must have had the intellectual capacity to write the will, although there is a presumption that a testator had such capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary.
- The testator must be expressing a wish to direct the distribution of his estate to beneficiaries.
In the United States, holographic wills are valid in around 30 out of the 50 states.
Holographic wills are evidence that the requirements for making a valid will are minimal.
Holographic wills are usually created in emergency situations, such as when the testator is trapped and near death. On June 8, 1948 in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, there was a famous case where a farmer, Cecil George Harris, trapped under his own tractor carved a will into the fender. The fender was probated and stood as his will. The fender is currently on display at the law library at the University of Saskatchewan.