Dealing with the loss of a loved one is enough of a devastating experience without the added frustration of attempting to probate a nonstandard will. While a properly drafted will needs to meet several Texas legal requirements to be considered valid, a recent case has made clear that initials on a will are enough to meet the requirement that a will be properly signed.
General Requirements for a Valid Will
Texas law requires the following features of a written will for the will to be considered valid:
- The will must be in writing.
- The will must be signed, either by the person making the will, or by another person on behalf of the person making the will. If someone is signing on behalf of the person making the will, they must do so in the presence of the person making the will and at their instruction.
- The will must be “attested to,” or certified, by two witnesses who are at least 14 years old and who sign the will with their own names in the presence of the person making the will.
Tex. Est. Code § 251.051.
These requirements are different if the will is a “holographic will,” which is a will completely written by the hand of the person making the will.
Are Initials Enough for the Signature Requirement?
In a recent case, a Texas appellate court considered whether a will could be considered “signed” if the person making the will had typed their name in the signature portion of the will and initialed the document by hand. The court noted that “Texas courts have been lenient regarding the location and form of a ‘signature.'” Jones v. Jones, Tex. App. LEXIS 2019 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] March 29, 2022, no pet. history). In that case, the person making the will had initialed each page of the document in his own hand and had two witnesses sign the will. This convinced the court that the person making the will had satisfied the most important element of the signature requirement, which is that he intended to demonstrate with his initials that he wanted to properly execute the will. As a result, the will was considered valid and legally effective by the court.
It is important to make sure that a will is properly drafted by an attorney to avoid issues in settling a loved one’s estate. When issues arise during probate, it is also important to work with qualified attorneys to help resolve any problems with an existing will.
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