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Is a Hand-Written Will Valid in Missouri?

David W. Walker Attorney At Law June 28, 2023

My last will and Testament, handwritten phrase on white paperIt is never pleasant to think about death. However, creating a will is a continuous process, not a last-minute thought, which is why the sooner you do it, the better. Many people think they can just create a handwritten will “when the right time comes” and that it will be enough. The problem is that handwritten wills do not always hold up in court. In fact, many states do not recognize handwritten wills as valid altogether.  

If you are considering creating a will, contact David W. Walker Attorney At Law to get help. As an estate planning attorney in Columbia, Missouri, I can explain the legal requirements of creating a will and help you create a valid will that serves its purpose. I also serve Fulton, Boonville, and Jefferson City.  

Why You Need a Will

There are several reasons why you should consider drafting a will while you still have the testamentary capacity to do so: 

  • Control over what happens to your assets. Having a will ensures that you have control over what happens to your assets when you die. Without a will, your state’s law will govern how your assets will be distributed (intestate distribution law).  

  • Minimize family conflict. A will helps to minimize family conflict and legal disputes that can arise from disagreements over the distribution of assets.  

  • Choose an executor. With a will, you can choose an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.  

  • Name guardians. A will also enables you to name guardians for your minor children if you have any.  

  • Reduce taxes and expenses. Last but not least, a will protects your estate from unnecessary taxes and expenses, including those associated with the probate process.  

If you are thinking of creating a will, get legal help from an estate planning attorney to make sure that the will you draft is valid and legally binding.  

What Makes a Will Valid in Missouri?

Under Missouri law, a will is valid and legally binding when it was signed by the testator (the person creating the document) and the signature was witnessed by two people who must also sign the document. Contrary to popular belief, it is not legally required to notarize your will in Missouri for it to be valid.  

Types of Wills

There are several types of wills to choose from:  

  • Simple will. A simple will is the most basic type commonly used to distribute assets equally among beneficiaries. It contains essential details such as your name, your beneficiaries, your assets, and the executor of your estate. 

  • Mirror will. A mirror will is generally used by married couples or partners who intend to leave identical or near-identical wills to each other. 

  • Living will. A living will, also known as an advanced healthcare directive, is a legal document that tells people about your medical care preferences. It speaks on your behalf in situations where you are too ill to communicate. 

  • Joint will. This will is often used by couples to leave their entire assets to each other in the event of one of their deaths. Upon the death of the surviving partner, the assets are then divided among the beneficiaries. 

  • Oral will. Oral or spoken wills are delivered verbally to witnesses. Missouri law does not generally allow oral wills unless it is made right before imminent death. 

Despite the many types available, it is important to understand which one is best suited for your needs to ensure your final wishes are respected. Consider speaking with an experienced attorney to discuss your particular situation.  

What Is a Holographic Will?

A holographic will is a handwritten will that is recognized as legally binding in some states. However, not all states recognize holographic wills. A holographic will must be written entirely in your handwriting and must be signed and dated by you.  

Missouri law does not recognize holographic wills as valid unless it meets all of the statutory requirements (e.g., must be signed and witnessed by two witnesses) or the document is considered valid in the state where it was originally executed.  

Many people prefer holographic wills due to the ease and cost-efficiency of creating this type of will. There are some disadvantages to a holographic will, such as the fact that it may not meet your state’s requirements, it can be difficult to read, and it may not clearly express your wishes.  

Find the Clarity You Need to Move Forward

With the help of an estate planning attorney, you can ensure that your will and other estate planning documents conform to the state requirements and meet your specific goals and needs. If you have questions about creating a will, contact David W. Walker Attorney At Law to get the clarity you need to protect your legacy and loved ones. Reach out to my office to set up a free consultation.