People who write their own wills, often in an effort to save money, end up leaving a mess when they pass. In many cases, their wishes are not carried out because the wills do not adhere to tenants of law. If you want your wishes to be followed, the best path is to work with a good estate planning attorney.
Two cousins were very close. They may have lived in different states, but spoke frequently, travelled together often, and even shared a birthday. Jill Widdman and her cousin Gary Kruger thought of each other as soul mates and twin cousins.
Three years before passing away, Kruger made out a handwritten will that left his home and checking account to his cousin. He went to the bank and had the will notarized. What Kruger intended for his assets after he passed away seemed clear. However, his cousin did not receive the home or checking account. Instead, Kruger’s nieces split the assets between themselves.
Kruger’s handwritten will was invalidated because under Minnesota law, a will must be witnessed by two people. The notary counted as one witness. There was not a second witness to Kruger’s will. As he had no living parents, siblings or children by law his estate went to the nieces.
CBS Minnesota reported this story in “Missing a Signature, Minneapolis Man's Last Will Invalidated.”
Under California law, the handwritten will may have been a valid holographic will if the material provisions were in Kruger’s own handwriting and the will was dated. A holographic will does not need to be witnessed or notarized to be valid. Like Minnesota, California also requires that a will be witnessed by two people. Not understanding state specific law is a danger of not hiring an estate planning attorney to draft your will. An estate planning attorney would have known that the law required two witnesses to the will. A notary public is not authorized to provide legal advice, and in California the notary public cannot affirm the validity of the contents within a document, only the identity of the individual signing.
By writing his own will Kruger may have saved some money at the time, but it came at the cost of not being able to have his final wishes obeyed.
Reference: CBS Minnesota (September 22, 2015) “Missing a Signature, Minneapolis Man's Last Will Invalidated.”