Handwritten Changes in Wills in Texas

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Having a will is very important no matter how old you are. They allow you to name who and how you want your property distributed when you die, and even appoint a legal guardian for minor dependents, if necessary. Although wills vary from person to person, one thing is certain - they are not written in stone. Needs and circumstances change and the writer of the will or testator may want to make some changes or amendments to the document. As the testator, be sure you understand how to legally do this in Texas.

There are two types of wills recognized in Texas. The most familiar is what is known as the attested will. This form is usually typed and must be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses who also sign the will. The other type is a lesser-known form called a holographic will. This one may be written entirely by hand by the testator and signed by the testator. It must be easy to read and understand by other people, i.e. have testamentary intent, and there are no requirements concerning witnesses, dates, or a notary when it comes to the signing of a holographic will.

In Texas, the testator has to have legal capacity to make a will, meaning they must be 18 or older, have been lawfully married, or a member of the military. They must have testamentary intent, meaning they purposefully mean to make a will dictating how their assets should be decided after death at the time the will is signed. They must also have testamentary capacity, or understand that they are disposing of their assets and the results of making this document. This is what is known commonly as “being of sound mind.”

Once a testator has drawn up a legal will, making changes can be tricky. Simply crossing out lines is not always acceptable, and it's a good idea to check with an estate lawyer before making any written changes on the Will itself. Making changes on your own could lead to others contesting the will after the testator dies. Plus, handwritten or typewritten changes on the will are invalid and will not be considered except for limited reasons.

Rather than rewriting the entire will, most lawyers will use a codicil. A codicil is a document that creates legal amendments to the will, adding or deleting sections for the testator.

Updating your will regularly can help avoid the need for unexpected changes. Major life events are good times to read over your will such as getting married, having children, getting a divorce, making a big move, or when a beneficiary dies. If you haven't experienced any major life changes, five years is a good rule of thumb.

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