What is the law regarding a handwritten note about items and distribution?

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What is the law regarding a handwritten note about items and distribution?

My older sister recently passed away. She was never married, no children. She had a Will but in her last couple months of life, she wrote a list of items and their distribution upon her death. They were nothing huge but some were sentimental items. She did not sign the list that was in her handwriting but her wishes were conveyed verbally to the 2 individuals who were her health care surrogates, 2 nieces.

Is it possible to contest those items?

Asked on September 27, 2016 under Estate Planning, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A non-will piece of writing, such as an unsigned handwritten note, has no legal effect whatsoever. The writing you describe does not qualify as a will. Similarly, oral expressions of her wishes have no effect or power. Only a will can control the distribution of assets after death; when there is no will, assets will be distributed by the laws of intestate succession in your state (the rules who gets what when there is no will.)
Assuming that your parents have passed away, her siblings will inherit everything, splitting it equally among them. If you are the only sibling, you will inherit her entire estate. You may choose, of course, to then, after the assets/items come to you, to honor her wishes and give them away as she instructed.


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