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Hand-written wills may have unwritten pitfalls

While the Commonwealth of Kentucky does not require wills to be typed or digitized and will recognize hand-written wills, there are important steps to follow and careful considerations to keep in mind to ensure your will functions as you want. Ultimately, your will and estate plan are most likely to succeed with help and guidance from an experienced attorney. They will be able to ensure your assets are protected and passed down to your loved ones as you had intended.

When is a hand-written will valid?

A legal team with a comprehensive understanding of estate planning is your best option when it comes to planning for the future. They know the ins and outs of Kentucky laws and guidelines, especially the requirements for a valid will.

According to Kentucky’s statute, wills are only valid if they are in writing and signed by the testator (the person making out the will). If the will is not wholly in the testator’s handwriting, the testator must sign it in the presence of two or more credible witnesses, who shall then sign their names in the presence of the testator and each other. If a will is entirely hand-written, it does not require witnesses, but they are still highly recommended.

One thing to consider is that hand-written wills are harder to update than those written on a word processor, and updating a hand-written will by crossing out words and phrases can create confusion for the court. Your will and estate plan should be updated from time to time, especially when you go through a major life event such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child or grandchild. An estate planning attorney will help you update your will when necessary to make sure it matches your life stage.

3 ways a will may be invalidated

Even if a will meets the basic requirements of being in writing and signed by the testator and, in some cases, witnesses, certain other issues can invalidate it, including:

  • A testator not being the appropriate age or of sound mind: The testator must generally be 18 years old and otherwise mentally sound. This is referred to as having “testamentary capacity.” If the person does not have testamentary capacity, the will could be challenged in court.
  • Evidence of deception: There must have been no fraud or forgery of the will, and the testator’s decisions regarding the will must have been made without undue influence by anyone, especially a beneficiary of the will.
  • A newer version of the will is available: An earlier or previous version of the will may have been revoked or overridden by a subsequent will. Only a person’s last valid will can be probated. An attorney will make sure to include the date on your will to ensure it is valid and that no trouble will ensue.

Can I avoid problems if I want a hand-written will?

The primary goal of an estate plan is to properly protect your loved ones and family members when your time comes. However, a hand-written will may not be recognized by a judge who cannot verify the testator’s handwriting. Lasting court battles can greatly impact your grieving loved ones and create unnecessary stress.

If you’re looking for problem-free estate planning, the best idea is to have your will and estate plan drawn up by a legal professional who can ensure it will hold up in court and is done thoroughly and properly.