Suicide Note Valid as a Holographic Will
Recently, The Probate Pro represented the minor children of a person that recently died. Prior to the decedent’s apparent suicide, she hand wrote on the outside of the envelope “This is not to be opened until I die.” Inside the envelope she wrote on a separate piece of paper, “Please make sure the kids get my money.” At the bottom she signed and dated the suicide note. A lawsuit ensued between the children and the newly married spouse as to the validity of the suicide note as a holographic Will.
To be valid as a Will and admitted to probate, Michigan has specific requirements. MCL 700.2502 states that for a Will to be valid, in general it must:
1. Be in writing (that means no verbal Wills or statements on video are permissible)
2. Signed (by the person or by another person at their direction)
3. Witnessed by at least 2 people (note that there is no notarization requirement)
Since the suicide note was never witnessed, it would have been invalidated as a Will except for a provision of Michigan law that could qualify it as a holographic Will. A Will becomes a valid holographic Will, if it is dated and the person’s signature and the documents material portions are in the person’s handwriting. The requirement of at least 2 witness signatures is not needed.
Holographic wills are common and are often created in emergency situations or when contemplating suicide. In these circumstances, the formality of typing a Will and obtaining witness signatures is not practical. Each year, The Probate Pro admits to probate many holographic wills when there was no emergency or contemplation of suicide. Many people don’t seek the assistance of an attorney and just hand write their wishes on a piece of paper. Obviously, this is not advisable and can lead to document not being admitted to probate. A properly drafted estate plan prepared with the assistance of a competent attorney is the best assurance that your intentions will be met.
Following extensive litigation, the court admitted the suicide note as a holographic Will and the children received the bulk of the estate.