Can I handwrite my will?



Maybe you’re about to go on a trip or have a sudden flash of insight that makes it urgent to make or update your will. In certain states, including Hawai`i, holographic (or handwritten) wills are accepted, but you should know a few things before breaking out the pen and stationery.



First of all, unless you're an experienced estate planning attorney in the state you live in, handwriting your own will may lead to more problems than it's worth. In addition to lacking state-specific legal knowledge, handwritten wills are more likely to be taken to court by beneficiaries. To be valid in the State of Hawai`i, first, the substantive parts of the will need to be in your handwriting, and, second, it needs to be signed by you.   

In addition to being primarily handwritten and signed by the executor (person who's will it is), a will should also include three other crucial parts. First, the executor of the estate should be named. The executor is the person who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes defined in the will. Generally, what happens after someone passes away, is that their executor is appointed (according to their estate plan), then takes an inventory of the estate, pays debts and taxes, and finally makes sure the beneficiaries get what they are stated to receive.

Along with appointing the executor, a will should appoint a beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are individuals or entities (sometimes nonprofit organizations) to whom the person who passed away (known as a decedent) bequeaths real and personal property, cash or other assets. The will states and defines the decedent's beneficiaries and the inheritance they are to receive.

The last major piece of information to include in a will is to state that it revokes and replaces any previously written will. It could get very confusing and contentious for those you leave behind if there are different versions of your will floating around.  We generally recommend destroying any outdated estate planning documents that have been revoked and replaced by current documents. 




John is the founder of Hawaii Trust & Estate Counsel, a statewide Hawaii estate planning law firm with offices in Waimea, Hilo, Kona, Maui, and Honolulu. He has taught Estate Planning at the Richardson School of Law, and business law courses at the University of Hawaii—Hilo. He has resided in North Hawaii since 2008....MORE


Estate Planning is necessary because, as the old expression goes, "You can't take it with you" and you never know what's going to happen in life.  The estate planning documents of an advance health-care directive, power of attorney, and sometimes a trust help someone step into your shoes to make decisions on your behalf, during your lifetime. Then after your lifetime, you may need a will or will substitute, such as a revocable living trust, if they want to control who inherits their property and how and when that inheritance is received, to minimize administration costs, and to avoid unnecessary taxes.  A well-planned estate is a gift to your loved ones and provides you peace of mind. It is part of your legacy. 

Basic Estate Planning Documents - will trust power of attorney graphic.png

Everyone has a different story and should have a unique estate plan.  In most cases, the first meeting with one of our attorneys is complementary and serves the purpose of understanding your goals and educating you on your options.  Depending on the option that is right for you, we will give you a price quote at the first meeting, before moving forward with your plan. Feel free to explore the basic information on our website.  


This blog does not contain legal advice.  You should not rely on this to determine what is in your own best interest.  For legal advice, specific to your situation, you must meet with an attorney.  All posts are based on hypothetical scenarios, not the actual circumstances of real clients.