Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Make a Valid Will in Hawaii

A will is an important document as it can control a considerable amount of money, assets and property and make significant life decisions.  If you make a will, it is essential to make sure there are no questions about its validity.  Specific language and clear wording can prevent disputes after you die and give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out as quickly as possible. 

Hawaiian law describes several important requirements to make a valid will.  Hawaii Revised Statute 560 2-502

Proper Age
You must be at least 18 years old to make a legally binding will in Hawaii. 

You must sign your will in front of two witnesses.  In some states, witnesses to a will signing must be “uninterested,” however, in Hawaii, the witnesses may be “interested.”  An “interested” witness is a person who is a beneficiary under the will.  The witnesses do not have to read the document, they must only know that you are signing your will. Hawaii Revised Statute 560 2-505

In Writing
A valid will must be written.  Some people attempt to simplify matters by handwriting their will.  Such a document is called a holographic will and is legal in Hawaii.  A holographic will often makes matters more complex than a printed document drafted by an attorney because the handwriting must be proven to be yours.  Many holographic wills are not witnessed and handwriting experts or people familiar with your handwriting must testify that the writing is yours. 

Print or type your will.  Holographic wills can make probate difficult.  
It is often difficult for a court to determine your true intent from a holographic will.  For example, if you bequest “$10,000 to Auntie Em” the court will not know if you meant your elderly neighbor Emaline who you visit daily or your mother’s sister Aunt Emily who you haven’t seen for years but decides she would like to have $10,000. 

Self-Proving Affidavit
A self-proving affidavit is not a requirement under Hawaii law but wills drafted by a knowledgeable attorney should include one.  This affidavit is a sworn and notarized statement saying that you intend this document to be your will.  If you do not include a self-proving affidavit with your will, your personal representative will have to prove to the court that the will was made by you. 

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