Some people try to oversimplify the estate planning process. They are under the impression that you can simply draw up your own will, and you will be adequately prepared. A simple will is better than nothing, but in many cases, a will is not the right choice.
In fairness, you can potentially create a legally binding will on your own, and even write it out by hand with no witnesses. This is called a holographic will, and they are legal in Oklahoma and about half of the other states in the union. The problem is, they don’t always address all the issues needed.
Thomas Kinkade Holographic Will Fiasco
Thomas Kinkade, the self-described “Painter of Light,” passed away at the age of 54 in 2012. He died in California from “acute intoxication” after drinking heavily under the influence of Valium.
He had an unusual family arrangement at the time of his death. Kinkade was married, but his wife Nanette filed for divorce two years before he passed away. It had not yet been finalized, and he had been living with his girlfriend, Amy Pinto-Walsh, for about 18 months.
Apparently, Nanette did not take too kindly to the relationship and Pinto-Walsh was not allowed to attend the funeral. To add insult to injury, Nanette Kinkade filed a lawsuit against her, claiming she breached a confidentiality arrangement.
Pinto-Walsh fired back in the courtroom. She produced two different holographic wills allegedly created and signed by Thomas Kinkade. The first one left her Kinkade’s home, a neighboring property, and $10 million.
Details in the second one were the same with the exception of a stipulation for the use of the $10 million. It was earmarked for the creation of a museum that would hold Kinkade’s paintings.
This seems pretty straightforward as holographic wills are recognized in the state of California. The waters were muddied, however, because the wills were very difficult to read due to his atrocious handwriting.
Kinkade was a professional painter, so it is unlikely he could not write legibly under ordinary circumstances. At the same time, he was a heavy drinker and often intoxicated, so this could be why the wills were sloppily written.
A will is not valid if created while the testator is not of sound mind. Being drunk does not necessarily constitute incapacity. Ultimately, the two parties came to a “secret settlement” and the matter was closed.
If Kinkade had explained his intentions to an estate planning attorney, he could have executed a plan that stated his wishes in no uncertain terms. You do not want to follow his lead and scribble a handwritten will whether you are drunk or sober.
Requirements for a Legal Will in Oklahoma
While not recommended, you can execute a legally binding will in Oklahoma on your own. You must sign the will in front of two witnesses and declare that the document is your will.
At the end of the document, your witnesses must sign the will in your presence. It does not have to be notarized, but notarization is a good idea because it simplifies the estate administration process.
After the death of a testator, the will is admitted to probate and the court supervises the administration of the estate. There will must be “proved” if it has not been notarized, which means the court will contact the witnesses., who must testify to how the will was executed.
This slows down the process. If, on the other hand, the will is notarized as a a self-proving will, the witness contact step can be skipped.
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Today is the day for action if you have going through life without an estate plan. When you work with our firm to develop your plan, we will learn about your situation and explain your options so you can make fully informed decisions. At the end, you will have a custom crafted plan that ideally suits your needs.
If you are ready to get started, you can schedule a consultation at our Oklahoma City estate planning office by calling us at 405-843-6100.
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