Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Not retaining an estate planning attorney to assist you with the preparation of your Will can have drastic and unintended results. I recently met with a woman who had lived with her significant other for more than 10 years. The significant other had prepared a Will which bequeathed everything to “my wife” and identified her by name. However, the couple had never married and the State of Nevada does not recognize common law marriages. Moreover, the Will was not witnessed by two persons. As a result, the Will was invalid and instead of the estate being devised to his significant other, the assets went to his estranged daughters.

These types of unfortunate results could have easily been avoided had he met with an experienced estate planning attorney. I am often asked if someone can prepare their own Will and the answer is “yes”. Nevada is one of the few states which recognizes such “holographic wills” as long as they meet certain statutory requirements. NRS 133.090 defines a holographic will as a will in which the signature, date and material provisions are written by the hand of the testator, whether or not it is witnessed or notarized. Prior to 1999, in order for a holographic will to be valid, it must have been entirely in the handwriting of the person who created it. However, with the advent of pre-printed Will forms that are available on line and in many Form Stores, the Legislature revised the law to provide the holographic will would be valid as long as the “material provisions” are in the testator’s handwriting. The “material provisions” are considered the language which indicates who is to receive your estate (the “beneficiaries”) and how much each person(s) receives. Unfortunately, in the situation mentioned above, the Testator had typed the entire Will. As a result, the document could not be recognized as a holographic will and an unintended result occurred.

The costs to prepare a Will are nominal, especially in consideration of the costly problems that can occur and unintended consequences that could result. Don’t be a penny wise and pound foolish.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.