Becky Cholewka: A question I get a lot is, “Becky, can I make a handwritten change to one of my legal documents?” Handwritten changes very rarely work. A lot of it will depend on the rules of the state that you execute that document in, what the rules of valid execution are.
For example, there are some states that allow what’s called a holographic will. A holographic will is a will that’s actually done in your own handwriting. It doesn’t need to be witnessed by anyone else, and it doesn’t need to be notarized. Here in Arizona, we do accept holographic wills, which means if you have already created a holographic will and then have made just a handwritten change to it, that is going to work.
However, what I see a lot of times is people who try to make handwritten changes to documents that have been typed out.
For example, last week in my office, I had someone who had a trust. Their trust was validly executed. It was witnessed by two people and it was also notarized. If you wanted to make any changes to that document, you’re going to have to do it in the same format that you did the original.
The changes are going to have to be both witnessed by two people as well as notarized. Doing some type of just handwritten notation on the corner of the document will not work.
Make sure if you do want to make changes that you do take it to an estate‑planning attorney so that they can review those changes to make sure that they will also work from a legal perspective. There are some folks that want to make changes that just aren’t going to work with either our procedural rules or with our legal rules.
It’s always good to just take it to somebody, have them review it, see what you can or can’t do. Make sure there are any changes you are making to your documents are going to be valid and will work for you.