When you think about all that writing a will entails, it makes sense that there would be more than one way to accomplish the task. A will communicates your final wishes including how you want your assets to be distributed, who you would appoint to care for dependents, how you want your funeral to be conducted, and so on. These are among the most important decisions you will ever make and so it is good that there are multiple valid approaches. While working with an experienced estate planning attorney is always the best way to execute any estate planning document, circumstances may arise that make this impossible. Thus, Missouri will recognize a handwritten will (not to be confused with a holographic will) or, in extreme cases, an oral will. However, both of these non-traditional formats imply important limitations that make them viable in only very marginal situations.
How to Write Will in Missouri: Basic Legal Requirements
When you die, your loved ones will need to file your will with a Missouri probate court where it must be validated. The court’s first step will be to ensure your will meets the following basic legal requirements:
- It is written (meaning typed or printed).
- It carries your signature as testator or person executing the will.
- It is signed by two witnesses who were present when you executed the document and who also witnessed each other’s signing.
The court will also verify that you were qualified to write a will at the time of execution. This means you were 18 years of age, or an emancipated minor, minor in a marriage or on active military duty, and of sound mind.
Finally, the court will provide any person mentioned in your will or in any past wills the opportunity to contest your will.
If you worked with an experienced estate planning attorney to execute your will, you need not worry about anyone contesting your final wishes. A professionally drafted document will leave no room for doubt concerning its validity. This is not true of a handwritten or oral will and yet should you find yourself in a position where preparing one or the other is your only option, the following explains what you need to know.
Key Concerns Related to Handwritten or Oral Wills
Some states will accept a holographic will but Missouri is not one of them. A holographic will is a handwritten will that has been prepared without witnesses. In the Show Me State, only a handwritten that has been signed by the testator and by two witnesses will be considered valid.
Meeting these basic criteria does not shield a handwritten will from being contested, however. Proving that a document scribbled on a sheet of loose leaf was prepared in sound mind, for instance, is difficult should anyone seek to challenge this point.
The same is true of an oral will (sometimes called a nuncupative will), though this is only a viable format in the most extreme of circumstances. Missouri will recognize an oral will only if made by a person in imminent peril of death who dies as a result of the impending peril. Furthermore, the testator of an oral will must declare they are stating their will before two disinterested witnesses who then must commit their words two writing within thirty days.
An oral will cannot revoke or amend an existing written will and may only dispose of personal property valued at no more than $500.
Due to their limitations and legal vulnerability, neither a handwritten nor an oral will is a viable replacement for a professionally drafted document. They are as much an option as delivering a baby in the backseat of a car. If you have to, OK, but every effort should be made to avoid such a situation.