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Holographic Wills, A Good Idea or Not?

Posted by Mary R. LaSota, Esquire in Uncategorized, Will | 0 comments

A holographic Will is a handwritten Will made by a person that gives away their property upon their death. Pennsylvania may recognize this do-it yourself document as long as document disposes of property and is signed at the end, but you should not necessarily handwrite your own Will.  Pennsylvania courts frown upon such handwritten Wills and for good reason.  Often the handwritten document is sloppy, riddled with grammar and spelling errors and devoid of any understanding of the law.  Is this important? Yes, it is.

Let’s take a look at the purported Will of Harry A. Kimmel. The document was a not your typical Last Will & Testament, it was a handwritten letter mailed to two of his children, George Darl and Irvin Kepp, and signed simply “Father.”

The Kimmel Bro. and Famly We are all well as you can espec fore the time of the Year. I received you kind & welcome letter from Geo & Irvin all OK glad you poot your Pork down in Pickle it is the true way to keep meet every piece gets the same, now always poot it down that way & you will not miss it & you will have good pork fore smoking you can keep it from butchern to butchern the hole year round. Boys, I wont agree with you about the open winter I think we are gone to have one of the hardest. Plenty of snow & Verry cold verry cold! I dont want to see it this way but it will will come see to the old sow & take her away when the time comes well I cant say if I will come over yet. I will wright in my next letter it may be to ruff we will see in the next letter if I come I have some very valuable papers I want you to keep fore me so if enny thing hapens all the scock money in the 3 Bank liberty lones Post office stamps and my home on Horner St goes to George Darl & Irvin Kepp this letter lock it up it may help you out. Earl sent after his Christmas Tree & Trimmings I sent them he is in the Post office in Phila working.

Will clost your Truly,
Father

Mr. Kimmel, sick and unable to work, drafted the above letter one morning, mailed it, and died that afternoon.  The Register of Wills probated the handwritten letter per the direction of the Orphans’ Court and Mr. Kimmel’s son, Oliver, appealed the action to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Why?  If the handwritten letter were omitted to probate as a Will, Oliver would inherit none of his father’s property.  Instead, all of the property would go to George and Irvin.

When Oliver challenged the handwritten letter, he asked the Court to decide two questions.  First, was the handwritten document testamentary in nature? In other words, did the document give away Mr. Kimmel’s property upon his death? After reviewing the document, the law and Mr. Kimmel’s circumstances (i.e., he was sick and unable to work), the Court decided that the following provision,

“so if enny thing hapens all the scock money in the 3 Bank liberty lones Post office stamps and my home on Horner St goes to George Darl & Irvin Kepp this letter lock it up it may help you out.”

was in fact dispositive and it was Mr. Kimmel’s intent to give away his property if “enny thing happens”.

Stay tuned. The next post will cover the second question before the Court.

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