How valid is a handwritten will?

Handwritten wills.

With the widespread reliance on computers, this issue does not often arise in present times, but there may be instances when you feel that handwriting a will is the best way to keep it a secret and to avoid detection from greedy relatives who may otherwise insist on being kept apprised of the situation (or potentially even hack your computer to get access).
But would that handwritten will be valid?

Sometimes referred to as a “holographic will”, such handwritten wills are treated differently in different jurisdictions. In Singapore, for a handwritten will to be valid, the formal requirements of a will should still be met, i.e. rules as to formal validity. This includes the following: The will must be (a) signed by the person creating the will (also known as the testator); (b) (the signature must be) at the end of the will; and (c) the testator’s signing of the will must be witnessed by at least two people. We should mention for good order that these witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will or spouses of the beneficiaries of the will as the gifts to those beneficiaries may then not be valid.

Quite apart from the formal validity of the will, a real practical issue that handwritten wills have is interpretation. In our view, the risk of handwritten wills being unenforceable is often not because of issues of invalidity, but more because the wills are illegible and the testator’s intentions not abundantly clear. In such instances, your intended gifts may be erroneously made to another person, especially in cases where there is room for ambiguity (e.g. where your children’s names differ by only one letter such as an ‘a’ and ‘o’ or an ‘i’ and ‘l’).

In conclusion, while we would caution against handwritten wills for reasons of clarity, there is no legal impediment (save for formal validity requirements) against hand-writing your will.

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