16th Jun 2020

In the last post in this series on holographic wills, we discussed why the law does not require witnesses for holographic wills. The logic seems to be: examining a handwritten will can give many of the same protections that witnesses do in conventional wills.

We gave the specific example of identification through handwriting. The protection seems to be: those left behind should be able to confirm the will – or determine a fraud – by being familiar with the decedent’s handwriting.

But is this always the case? A couple of high-profile matters in recent years indicate is may not be.

In the Aretha Franklin case, the Judge allowed a handwriting expert to examine potential holographic wills left behind. It is often the case that various experts can find different conclusions, or different levels of certainty. And if nothing else, this process will certainly dramatically increase the time and expense of the estate – not make is simpler.

At this point, coming upon two years from the date of death, the validity of the wills had not been determined. It is reported a trial is scheduled for September.

Painter Thomas Kinkade, known as the “Painter of Light” during his life, left behind an estate situation that was anything but clear. He left a couple of handwritten wills in favor of a girlfriend he lived with, which his wife, whom he was legally separated from, challenged. The Mercury News captured the divide as follows, “Lawyers for the Kinkade estate had said the squiggly notes ‘speak for themselves’ and were confident they would be thrown out of court. But Pinto’s lawyers were equally convinced of their credibility, saying Kinkade’s alcoholism had left him with a shaky hand, but the letters reflected his true desires.”

The same source reported a settlement between the two parties, without these questions ever completely answered or resolved.

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