Holographic Wills: Are They Valid?

Under Illinois law, only wills that comply with specific rules are considered valid. For instance, all wills must be in writing, while the testator must be at least 18 years old and have sufficient mental capacity to know what he or she is doing. Finally, the will must be signed by two credible witnesses. To ensure that your own will fulfills these requirements, please contact a member of our contested estates legal team for advice.

What is a Holographic Will?

Wills that are handwritten or unwitnessed are referred to as holographic wills and are some of the easiest estate planning documents to challenge in court. If, for instance, a will was handwritten, an heir could challenge it during probate proceedings by claiming that the handwriting is not actually the testator’s. Alternatively, a will could be typed, but may not have been witnessed by two non-beneficiaries, in which case an heir could contest its validity. Holographic wills only withstand challenges in court when there is sufficient proof that:

  • The entire will was drafted in the testator’s handwriting; and
  • The document was created to serve as the testator’s will.

When beneficiaries are able to present this type of evidence there is a good chance that the will in question will be considered valid.


The only exception to the requirement that a will be witnessed by two non-beneficiaries is when the will was created in another state where witness signatures are not required. As long as the will meets the requirement of the state where it was created, it will most likely be accepted in the state where the decedent passed away. Similarly, a will created in another country is considered valid when it meets all the terms of the Uniform International Wills Act.


Testators in Illinois are permitted to make changes to their wills without having to rewrite the entire document. Instead, the testator must only ensure that he or she complies with the same requirements that were necessary when they created the original will, including that it be witnessed by two non-beneficiaries. Handwritten codicils can be considered valid, but only if all of these requirements are met. However, it is easier to challenge a codicil that was handwritten, as it is more likely that certain language could be interpreted as ambiguous or unclear. For this reason, testators are encouraged to speak with an attorney before creating or changing their wills.

Call Today to Discuss Your Case with a Contested Estates Attorney Serving Skokie 

If you currently have a handwritten will and have questions or concerns about its validity, you should speak with an attorney who can ensure that your document meets all necessary state requirements and so will be less likely to be challenged after your death. Alternatively, if your loved one left behind a holographic will and you have concerns that it may not actually reflect his or her wishes, please contact one of the dedicated contested estates attorneys at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today.

Updated as of July 2019
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