Can you do a handwritten will?
A recent case in the news, namely the handwritten will of music superstar Aretha Franklin, raises the question of whether or not a person living in Wisconsin can do a handwritten will.
In the Franklin case, a jury in Michigan had ruled that a handwritten note from the late singer was a valid will.
In 2019, Aretha Franklin’s niece had found three handwritten documents scattered about the singer’s home near Detroit. One, dated 2014 was found underneath the couch cushion. There was another, earlier note from 2010, which had been found under lock and key in the singer’s home. And finally, a more recent will which changed some of the language in the earlier documents.
Apparently, the documents themselves were difficult to read; but the jury concluded that the 2014 note had her name signed at the bottom, with a smiley face written inside the letter “A”, which was apparently typical of her actual signature.
The Franklin case deals with what is known as a “holographic” will, meaning that it is handwritten by the maker, but does not require witnesses. These Franklin wills also highlight the problems associated with these holographic wills. Such wills are valid in some states, but not in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, a handwritten will may be deemed valid, but it still requires the date of the will and signature of the maker, as well as signing in front of two disinterested witnesses, who also simultaneously sign the document. These safeguards are viewed as essential to ensure the validity of the Last Will and Testament. Even better would be to have the will drafted by a competent attorney and executed with the statutory formalities.
Here at Grosskopf & Burch, we have experience in drafting wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents, and also have experience making sure they are properly drafted, executed, witnessed, and later filed with the Court if necessary.