Can I Handwrite My Own Will?
While a formal, typewritten will, one that has been carefully considered by a lawyer who specializes in wills and estates, is always best, sometimes people try to write their own wills. When someone (a testator) writes their own will, this is called a holograph will. Alberta’s Wills and Succession Act states that holograph wills can be valid in Alberta as long as they comply with the Act.
To be valid, a holograph will must be:
- Written by hand (not computer generated),
- Entirely written by the testator, and
- Signed by the testator.
No other formality is (explicitly) required. However, just as with any other kind of will, not just any piece of writing can become a valid will. The writing in the will must read to a court as the deliberate, fixed, and final expression of the testator’s intention to dispose of their property upon their death. Whoever brings the will to a court to have it recognized (probated) will have to prove this. While witnesses and other evidence are not required for a court to probate the will, the person claiming the will is real might have difficulty convincing the court without any evidence. This task will be even harder if the testator did not date the will. Likewise, even though the testator’s signature does not need to be at the end of a will, a court might not consider any writing that follows the signature unless someone proves the court should do so.
There are plenty of other hidden technicalities that might get in the way. The courts will be a bit more generous in how they read a holograph will because they will know the testator was probably not a lawyer. A court cannot make the will say something it does not though. A holograph will also cannot make something happen that the testator does not have the legal authority to make happen. Without legal knowledge, it can be very difficult to write a holograph will properly. Therefore, a holograph will should only be used as a last option when there is no other choice.