Holographic and Video Wills: Are they legit?

Holographic and Video Wills: Are they legit?

While the preparation of a Will is traditionally thought of as a very paper-heavy ordeal, complete with a Notary, witnesses, tons of signatures and air tight languaging to avoid any and all loopholes, there are actually other ways to creating a Will. Consider the possibility of finding yourself in a situation with no access to a Notary or a witness, and time is of the essence. Or, what if you stumbled across a hand-written Will from Great Aunty Sue in a shoebox under her bed after she passed? What if you found a CD labeled “Will” on dad’s desk while clearing out his house after his funeral? Do those count? Will the hold up in a Maryland court? Read on to find out…

A Holographic Will?! Say what?

               No, we’re not talking about a new trend in Estate Planning of people going all Michael Jackson circa 2018, creating holograms of themselves, listing off the benefactors of their estate after they die as they moonwalk across the room. (Although, how cool would that be?!) We’re actually talking about a concept in Estate Planning that has been around much, much longer than the moonwalk.

A Holographic Will is an interesting name for an unwitnessed and unnotarized Will that has been handwritten by the person making the Will (the testator). We tend to forget it, but there was once a time before computers, printers and typewriters even existed (they’ve only been around for a few decades). Wills, on the other hand, have been around for centuries. So, this idea of a handwritten Will isn’t that kooky. But have they stood the test of time and law? Yes…and no.

Nowadays, a Holographic Will is only valid in certain states; some of these states require that a portion or the entirety of the Will be written in the testator’s hand; others require that it be dated. Even in these states, a Holographic Will is drafted only as a last resort- if danger or threat to the testator’s life is imminent. In Maryland, a Holographic Will is legitimate as long as it meets the standards set forth by the law.

What are the Legal Requirements of a Holographic Will?

Gone are the days of scratching out our wishes on the walls of a dark, damp cave. Holographic Wills have had to evolve slightly over time to adhere to modern regulations. These regulations were designed to protect the testator’s estate and ensure little to no confusion after their death. In order to be valid, a Holographic Will must:

  • Be in writing and signed by the testator (or by a designated person with the testator’s permission, in the presence of the testator)
  • Indicate the testator’s intent to draft a paper Will if they are so able
  • Clearly identify the property and the beneficiaries to whom that property is to be distributed
  • Be signed by at least two credible witnesses who are at least 18 years of age

The testator must also be at least 18 years old and legally competent at the time of signing the Holographic Will.

Tell me about Video Wills

Gladly! Video Wills are categorized as nuncupative, or oral, Wills. Nuncupative Wills are often referred to as deathbed Wills, as they typically involve the testator speaking his bequests to witnesses because he/she has no option to make a written or typed Will. As with Holographic Wills, there are only a handful of states that accept Nuncupative Wills as valid alternative to a typed Will. Even in these states, Nuncupative Wills are to be used as a last resort and one of the witnesses may be required to file a written or typed Will on the testator’s behalf. In Maryland, Nuncupative Wills are not valid.

Get your ducks in a row, now

Though holograms are inching ever closer to the mainstream, Maryland law seems to be sticking to the more traditional route of Will making. As it stands, alternate forms of Wills (such as Nuncupative or oral Wills) are not currently valid in Maryland. It’s best to get your ducks in a row now, rather than wait until the last minute; finding yourself in a situation in which you cannot write or type or have a Will witnessed and signed. Let our Estate Planning and Probate attorneys help you! Give Ferrante, Dill and Hisle partner Jennifer Dill a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send her an email at info@ferrantedill.com.


This blog post that is published by Ferrante & Dill is only available for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. By viewing these blog posts, the reader understands there is no attorney-client relationship between the blog publisher and the reader. The blog post should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and we recommend readers to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.