A will that is drawn up by hand and signed by the testator is called a holographic will, and it does not have to be witnessed or notarized. Back in the day, some people would create these wills on their death beds, it can also be a battlefield solution.
These days, most people know that it is probably not wise to get out a pen and jot down your final wishes with no one else around. This being stated, about half of the states in the union will recognize holographic wills, but there are stipulations in some of the states.
Here in Connecticut where we practice law, holographic wills are not recognized, but they are legal in California where the painter Thomas Kinkade lived and died.
Estate Planning Fiasco
Kinkade passed away back in 2021, and from an estate planning perspective, you can learn something from his misguided approach to the planning process. He died from acute intoxication after chasing diazepam, which is the generic name for Valium, with a lot of alcohol.
The self-proclaimed “Painter of Light” was legally married at the time of his death, but his wife, Nanette, had filed for divorce two years before his passing. During this interim, he developed a relationship with a woman named Amy-Pinto-Walsh, and they lived together for 18 months.
After Kinkade’s death, his wife wanted no part of Pinto-Walsh. She was not admitted to the funeral, and Nanette filed a breach of confidentiality lawsuit against her for good measure.
Pinto-Walsh was not about to disappear quietly into the night. She presented two holographic wills that were allegedly drawn up by Kinkade to court. The first one left her Kinkade’s home, a neighboring property, and the sum of $10 million with no particular stipulations.
In the second will, Kinkade clarified the purpose of the $10 million. It was to be used by Pinto-Walsh to establish a museum that would house his works.
The existence of the holographic wills was a bit unusual, but there was a more profound extenuating circumstance. It was difficult for anyone to read the wills because they were so sloppily written, as though the testator was heavily intoxicated.
A will can be deemed invalid if the testator was not of sound mind when it was created. However, from a legal perspective, you are not necessarily mentally incapacitated when you are intoxicated, so it was not a slam-dunk case.
Ultimately, the two parties reached a settlement, and the matter was closed. The details have never been made public.
Requirements for a Valid Will in Connecticut
DIY estate planning is risky at best, and this is true even if you use a download or worksheet that you can buy online. As a layperson, you may make errors that yield unintended consequences, and you should consider all the asset transfer methods that are available to you.
This being stated, while we are on the subject, we should share the requirements that must be met to create a legally valid will in Connecticut. The first step is the planning stage where you create an outline that you will actualize in the will.
You determine what you have to pass along, and you decide on the way that it will be distributed among your heirs. Someone has to handle the estate administration tasks, so you name an executor in the will.
If you have minor children, you can name a guardian to care for them if it ever becomes necessary when you are drawing up the document. Once you have established the framework, you record your wishes, and you must sign the will in front of two witnesses. The witnesses must in turn sign the will in front of you.
It should be noted that it is best to choose witnesses that are not named in the will as inheritors.
There is no notarization requirement, but the court would be forced to contact the witnesses during probate if you do not get the will notarized. If you do get it notarized, it would be a self-proving will, and the witness contact requirement would be waived.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Our doors are open if you are ready to work with a Westport or Glastonbury, CT estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 860-548-1000.
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