Bonus Question: Making Sure The Will Is Authentic

Ray Deering: Good. Here’s another question Dave. “If I am an executor and I have a will written in someone’s own handwriting, what steps do I need to take to verify the will as it’s, as to its authenticity?”

Dave Frees: These are very good questions. That is called a holographic will. In some states it’s simply not valid. However in Pennsylvania it is, as a general rule valid. There are some reasons why they might not be, but you’ll still have to go to the Registrar of Wills and you’ll still have to be appointed. There are some extra precautions that the exec, the Registrar of Wills will make you go through. If you are planning your estate, you want to have what’s called a self proving will. You don’t really want a will in your own handwriting because wills have hundreds of years of court interpretation of what they mean. And, so you don’t want to inadvertently say something in your own handwriting that doesn’t have the same meaning to the court.

So generally speaking you want a will that has been prepared by somebody who really carefully listens to everything you say, and puts it down in a way that you understand and that the court would understand and that the beneficiaries would understand if they were ever to have to compare notes. But where you have a holographic will already, you’ll go over and you’ll have to prove it’s authenticity with at least two witnesses that can identify the signature, and you’ll have to prepare what’s called a copy fair, which is that you’ll have to type up a transcript of that will, so that the Registrar is not relying on using, you know their own, reading, their own reading of the will. You’ll have to prepare a transcript essentially of what you think it says. So, you will go through steps that a person that has a self proving will won’t have to go through.

If you’re an executor on a self proving will, you just basically go over to the courthouse, with the will, which proves itself because it’s got witnesses and a notary public affidavit attached to it, and you pay your fee, which is as I said often times very small, and you take a death certificate, and you take proof of who you are you’re good to go. With a holographic will, a little bit more complex than that. I hope I’m answering your question.

David M. Frees III Esq.


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