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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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