Can a document signed by a notary public override spousal intestacy rights?

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Can a document signed by a notary public override spousal intestacy rights?

Basically, I am an unofficial co-owner of a dog (taken care of it for the last 3 years now) and I want to protect my right to joint custody with my friend’swife should something happen to him (ie – prevent her from trying to take full custody since all of his assets default to her). He does not have a Will. If he types a document saying his wishes are for joint custody of the dog between me and his wife, and then takes it to a notary public, is that sufficient to prevent her from arguing for full custody of the animal?

Asked on May 9, 2011 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, a typed and notarized document does not constittuue a valid will; and anything that is not a valid will does not override the distribution of assets via intestate succession. The options are: 1) either he solemnizes a will in the correct way, which takes care of dog distribution (and note: it is legal for the will to only address the dog and say that other assets pass as per the intestacy rules; or 2) he can give you a current ownership interest in the dog--if you become owner or co-owner now, that will give you some rights on the friend's passing. Of the two, the better option is probably the will, though note that both can be done--i.e. you can be co-owner now, who gets the whole do if your friend passes away before you.


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