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Estate Planning

Handwritten Wills in Ohio: Are they Valid?

By April 2, 2019November 29th, 2021No Comments

A handwritten will sometimes referred to as a holographic will, is lawful in a majority of states, including Ohio. However, the will must still undergo the formalities of a will to be valid, AND should you need to probate the will out-of-state, a minority of states will not accept a handwritten will. Best practices, even in Ohio where a handwritten will is allowed, is to have the will typewritten and then executed with the required formalities.

Person writing on notebook paper

As with typewritten wills, the will must be signed by the person making the will (the “testator”) or by some other person in the testator’s conscious presence and at the testator’s express direction. Yes, a will can be signed by someone else and still be valid.

There also must be two competent witnesses, above the age of 18, to either the will signature or to the testator’s acknowledgment of the testator’s signature. The witnesses don’t actually have to witness the signing for the witness requirement to be valid, the testator simply has to tell him that the testator did, in fact, sign the will and show them the signature.

Like a typewritten will, handwritten wills may be deposited in the office of the judge of the probate court in the county in which the testator lives. This can be done before or after the death of the testator, and with or without applying for a probate of the will.

A note of caution on handwritten wills, however. While the will may be valid, that doesn’t answer the question as to whether a court will allow the will in as a matter of jurisdiction. Just because it is handwritten doesn’t mean that you can avoid the normal rules of a court’s jurisdiction.

A will shall be admitted to probate:

(1) In the county in the state in which the testator was domiciled at the time of the testator’s death;

(2) In any county of the state where any real property or personal property of the testator is located if, at the time of the testator’s death, the testator was not domiciled in this state, and provided that the will has not previously been admitted to probate in this state or in the state of the testator’s domicile;

(3) In the county of the state in which a probate court rendered a judgment declaring that the will was valid and in which the will was filed with the probate court. State ex rel. Lee v. Trumbull Cty. Probate Court, 83 Ohio St.3d 369, 372, 700 N.E.2d 4 (1998) (R.C. 2107.11 “addresses the jurisdiction of probate courts to probate a will”).

So, yes, you can still have a handwritten will in the State of Ohio, it just has to comply with all of the other formalities of will execution. Recall best practices, though, in making the will. If you don’t have to have a handwritten will, don’t do it.


Gertsburg Licata is a full-service, strategic growth advisory firm focusing on business transactions and litigation, M&A, and executive talent solutions for start-up and middle-market enterprises. It is also the home of CoverMySix®, a unique, anti-litigation audit developed specifically for growing and middle-market companies.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is merely intended to provide a very general overview of a certain area of the law. Nothing in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. You should not rely on anything in this article without first consulting with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. If you have specific questions about your matter, please contact an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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