Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question:
In Wisconsin Does a Handwritten Will Need a Witness if it Is Dated and Signed by the Deceased?
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Transcript of Video: In Wisconsin Does a Handwritten Will Need a Witness if it Is Dated and Signed by the Deceased
Today's question is the following:
In Wisconsin does a handwritten will need a witness if it is dated and signed by the deceased? In the case of a suicide, a letter was found by the sheriff's department was kept for evidence. The deceased has no prior will or trust, he wishes to leave everything to a sister but there is an adopted daughter who does not choose to be in his life. She has now come forward to claim possession of his things. She has already removed things from his home and property.
So this is a very interesting question and I’m sorry to hear about the suicide in the family but Wisconsin law does not allow hand-written wills or what we call holographic wills. Some states do allow them with the most notable recent example being Michigan, where there's currently a court fight over whether the singer Aretha Franklin left a handwritten will, the problem with handwritten wills is trying to prove whether this was really meant to be a will or just a letter or a note.
So again, Wisconsin does not allow handwritten wills so in this case the letter is not going to substitute for a will and since the daughter is likely closer than the sister under the laws of intestate succession and intestate means if you die without a will your estate proceeds under the laws, the legislature has written but in this case the daughter would be closer in relation than the sister.
So it sounds like there could be a criminal investigation going on here and the letter may be useful for those purposes but it's not going to qualify as a handwritten or holographic will under Wisconsin law.
Great question and thank you for asking.
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