This article aims to explain the nature, legal recognition, and practical implications of holographic wills in Ontario.

What is Holographic Will?

A holographic will is a type of will created by the individual and is entirely handwritten and signed by them, without formal witnessing or notarization. This type of will is valid under specific conditions in certain jurisdictions, including Ontario. The key feature of a holographic will is its creation, reflecting the individual’s testamentary intentions without the formalities typically associated with will drafting. It must clearly express the individual’s intent to distribute their assets posthumously and is often used in urgent situations where creating a formal will is not feasible. Although offering simplicity and immediacy, holographic wills can pose challenges in probate due to potential ambiguities and the lack of witnessing, making their legal standing sometimes more complex to establish.

How Does a Holographic Will Differ From a Formal Will?

A holographic will is a handwritten and personally signed will without witnesses or notarization. Formal wills are typewritten, witnessed, and often notarized, providing greater clarity and legal protection. Holographic wills are more susceptible to challenges regarding authenticity and testamentary capacity and can lead to ambiguities during probate. Formal wills are a more reliable option for legal protection.

Holographic wills are legally recognized under the Succession Law Reform Act in Ontario. The holographic will must meet the requirements of this act. Holographic wills are entirely handwritten and signed by the testator without the need for witnessing or notarization. Although simpler to create, holographic wills must still demonstrate the testator’s intent to distribute their assets upon death and are subject to scrutiny during probate. The authenticity of the handwriting and the testator’s mental capacity are often a matter of scrutiny during the probate process.

Does Holographic Will Require Witnesses?

No, a holographic will does not require witnesses. The essence of a holographic will is that it is entirely handwritten and personally signed by the testator without the formal requirement of being witnessed. This distinct feature sets it apart from other types of wills, such as attested wills, which require the presence and signatures of witnesses to validate the document. The absence of witnesses in a holographic case will simplify its creation process, particularly useful in urgent or private situations. However, this lack of formal witnessing can lead to challenges during probate, as the courts might need additional evidence to ascertain the will’s authenticity and to confirm that the testator had the necessary mental capacity and intention at the time of writing.

How is a holographic will authenticated during probate?

During the probate process, a holographic will is verified primarily through the handwriting and signature of the deceased. To confirm that the testator wrote the will, the court may require expert analysis from a handwriting expert. Additionally, testimony from individuals familiar with the testator’s handwriting and signature, such as family members or close associates, may be sought to support the authentication process. It may be necessary to prove that the testator had mental capacity while writing the holographic will. The objective is to ensure that the document accurately reflects the testator’s intentions and was written without any undue influence or under duress, maintaining the integrity of the probate process.

What are the Risks Associated with a Holographic Will?

The risks associated with a holographic will primarily stem from its lack of formal witnessing and potential for ambiguity. Without the formalities of a witnessed and notarized document, these wills are more susceptible to challenges regarding authenticity and the testator’s mental capacity at the time of writing. The absence of legal guidance during creation can lead to unclear language or omissions that may result in disputes among beneficiaries or even lead to the will being contested in court. Additionally, because holographic wills are often kept privately by the testator, there’s a higher risk of them being lost, destroyed, or not found after the testator’s death. This informality and the potential for misinterpretation or non-discovery can complicate the probate process, potentially leading to lengthy legal proceedings and uncertainty in the distribution of the testator’s estate.

Can a Holographic Will Be Changed or Revoked?

Yes, the testator can change or revoke a holographic will at any time, provided they are mentally capable. This can be done by writing a new will or physically destroying the old one.

Can a Holographic Will Be Typed?

No, a holographic will must be entirely handwritten by the testator. Typewritten documents do not qualify as holographic wills.


Holographic wills in Ontario are a convenient way to document testamentary wishes. Though recognized by law, they can lead to legal complexities. To ensure clear and enforceable expression of final wishes, consult an estate law professional.

If you are an individual seeking legal assistance in creating a will tailored to your unique circumstances and needs, contact us today to find out how we can help.

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.