March 29, 2021

Holographic Will

A recent unpublished appellate opinion addressed the validity of a holographic will that was executed roughly 45 days before the testator passed away. The testator executed a holographic will on November 8, 2017 and passed away on December 25, 2018. So in 2021, this was case still ongoing..........

Interestingly the testator, a California attorney, had written two prior holographic wills. 

"Edward, a lawyer, drafted three holographic wills, each on a single piece of paper from a legal pad. The first two, drafted in July 2014 and December 2016, were written neatly, with few spelling and grammatical errors. They left either $40,000 (July 2014 will) or $75,000 (December 2016 will) to Barbara, with the remainder of Edward's estate going to his sister Marcia. Both wills also provided contingencies for what would occur should either Barbara or Marcia predecease Edward. The December 2016 will additionally revoked Edward's previous will, and named an executor (Marcia, or Randi Sue Berger (Marcia's daughter) should Marcia predecease Edward).

The Contested Will, drafted on November 8, 2017, read:      

"My Last Will and Testiment [sic]      

"I Edward M Sherman, hereby giives [sic] to Barbara Garrison my home at 15743 Hesby Strreet [sic], Encino, California 91436 and all my other money and possesions [sic].      

"Nov. 8, 2017      

"This is my last Will and Testiment this [sic].  

"Edward Martin Sherman"  

It is uncommon in a will contest to have two prior holographic wills. Still, this circumstance was quite elucidating when determining whether the contested will was valid or not. That is, the litigants and their experts reviewed the prior two holographic wills to see how the contested will was analogous or distinguishable.

For example, an expert witness in this case, a medical doctor, opined "that the misspellings in the Contested Will, along with the way the writing did not stay within the lines, raised concerns about the writer's cognitive abilities. He had no concerns regarding the July 2014 and December 2016 wills, noting they were more thorough, in-depth, and legible, compared to the Contested Will."

Ultimately, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's ruling that the testator lacked sufficient testamentary capacity to write and execute a holographic will. 

Estate of Edward Martin Sherman, Los Angeles County Superior Court case # 18STPB03628.