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Preparing Your Own Will (COVID-19)

Authored By: Alaska Legal Services
Contents

Questions and Answers about preparing a handwritten will.

What is a "holographic willI"?

Is a handwritten will ("holographic will") the same as a generally executed will that I sign in front of two witnesses and a notary?

Why prepare a handwritten will ("holographic will") if it will not be self-proving?

Can I still execute my will while following Alaska’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines?

What can I do if I have an emergency need for a will or am a person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

How do I get started on a Holographic Will?

Is my Holographic Will valid for all of my property?

What should I do once the Alaska Covid-19 Health Mandate 011: Social Distancing is lifted?


What is a "holographic will"?

A holographic will is a valid and enforceable will in Alaska where the material portions of the will are handwritten by the testator (the person making a will) and signed. No witnesses are required to watch the testator sign a holographic will to be valid.

 

Is a handwritten will ("holographic will") the same as a generally executed will that I sign in front of two witnesses and a notary?

No. A holographic will, while valid, is not "self-proving". This means that the will's authenticity will need to be proved to the Court during the legal process called probate. All holographic wills must go through the formal probate process in Alaska, which can require a lot of court process including the testimony of witnesses to authenticate the testator's handwriting as their own in the handwritten will.

If a will is signed in front of two witnesses and a notary, then the authenticity of the will usually does not need to be proven to the Court during probate. Such a will is called a "self-proving" will. Oftentimes, a self-proving will can go through the informal probate process, which generally takes less time and requires less court intervention than formal probate.

 

Why prepare a handwritten will ("holographic will") if it will not be self-proving?

In cases of emergency where two witnesses and a notary may not be available, preparing a holographic will is appropriate. Having a will is always better than not having one. However, the process for proving a holographic will to the Court in probate is often a long and burdensome process for your loved ones. There is also the risk that your will is not accepted by the Court in the event it cannot be proven authentic. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to safely complete a generally executed will with two witnesses and a notary you should do so.

 

Can I still execute my will while following Alaska’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines?

Not safely. To execute a will, and make it self-proving, you must sign it in the presence of two disinterested witnesses and a notary. Since the Covid-19 Health Mandate requires: “maintaining a distance of six feet or greater from any individual with whom you do not currently reside,” ALSC does not advise gathering to execute a will at this time.

 

What can I do if I have an emergency need for a will or am a person at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

If you are 18 years of age or older and of sound mind, you may complete a handwritten will, which the law calls a “holographic will.” A holographic will does not require two witnesses and a notary to be valid. A properly executed holographic will only requires the person making the will (the testator) to handwrite the parts of the will that identify your property and who will receive that property, and then sign the document. 

 

How do I get started on a Holographic Will?

ALSC has created a fill-in-the-blank Holographic Will Form that leaves blank the parts of a will that must be done in the testator’s handwriting. Our Holographic Will Form includes instructions to help a testator properly execute a holographic will. If you have further questions about the form or require additional assistance please contact an attorney. 

ALSC is also accepting applications for legal assistance through our toll-free intake line at 1-888-478-2572 or by filling out our application, which you can find online. 

 

Is my Holographic Will valid for all of my property?

Maybe not. A Holographic Will is not valid for Native Allotments or a restricted Native Townsites because the federal government only recognizes a will executed by witnesses. If you own or have an interest in such restricted property, and you complete a Holographic Will, the will does not cover your restricted property, but it will cover other property. Your restricted property would then pass through intestacy.

 

What should I do once the Alaska Covid-19 Health Mandate 011: Social Distancing is lifted?

A Holographic Will should only be considered a temporary fix in an emergency and not as a replacement for a self-proving will. Without the two witnesses and notary, a Holographic Will must be proved through the formal probate process in Alaska State Court. When the social distancing order is lifted, and when it is safe for you to meet with others, we strongly suggest that you replace the holographic will by signing a new will in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.

Holographic Will Form and Instructions

Last Review and Update: May 05, 2020