Robert Ray

What constitutes a signature

A holographic will is one that is wholly in the handwriting of the testator and signed by him. What constitutes a signature is often contested.

Texas recognizes holographic wills but other states do not. The difference between a holographic will and a typed or printed will is that the typed or printed will has to be attested to by two credible witnesses. Holographic wills do not need to be attested.

Any will whether holographic or regular has to be signed by the testator. When documents are offered for probate as holographic wills, one of the problems that comes about is whether it was signed or not.

In a 2020 case in Texas, a document that was handwritten by the decedent was offered for probate as his holographic will. There was no signature on the document, however, in the body of the document the testator did write “R. Hohmann Estate.” 04-20-00237-CV.

The proponent of the document as a holographic will claimed that that was a sufficient signature. Those contesting the document claimed that it was not and since the testator did not sign or initial the document anywhere, it did not meet the requirements of the holographic will. The court ruled that “R. Hohmann Estate” was not a proper signature.

“Because nothing in the written instrument indicates the phrase “R. Hohmann Estate” expresses Raymond’s approval of that document as a whole…” 

So, what is a valid signature on a holographic will? An X on a document by a person who could not read or write the English language was a sufficient signature. Likewise, a will that started out “I, JP Dawson, being of sound mind… Make this my last will and testament” satisfy the requirements of the signature.

I have written previously about riding on the back of a greeting card that was just initialed that was found to be a valid holographic will. You can read about that case here.

Every case is different and whether a document is a will depends on whether it disposes of property on death and is signed by the person whose will it is claimed to be.


There are new cases all the time that clarify or change the law on inheritance disputes. Keep up-to-date by subscribing to our blog.



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Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
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