If someone dies without a Will, are their verbal wishes legally binding?

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If someone dies without a Will, are their verbal wishes legally binding?

My father passed away 3 years ago in AR without a Will. He was married at the time and his wife received the life insurance and kept the entire estate. She said that we (his only 3 children) could take some of his things at a later date. 2 years later my brother and I attempted to ask for some of the items being as my father verbally said this was his “desire” if and when he passed. She was not “emotionally” ready, so we gave her more time. It has since been 3 years from my father’s death and I am concerned that we may have an issue with her giving us his things. She is already seeing someone else so I don’t think that it is much to ask.

Asked on January 14, 2011 under Estate Planning, Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for the resulting situation.  Oral Wills are also known as "nuncupative" Wills and very few states recognize them as valid.  In fact, the states that do recognize them place certain requirements in the circumstances surrounding their making, such as an emergency situation and being witnessed by two parties (these are not the requirements of all the states that recognize oral Wills but just an example).  It is my understanding that oral Wills are not valid in Arizona.  But that does not mean that you did not "inherit" anyway under the laws there.  If there was property that was your Fathers prior to his marriage to his Wife then that would be considered separate property and disposed of according to the intestacy statutes iin the state.  You and your siblings would, then, inherit something.  It may be a battle to take on and showing proof - such as old family photos with the items in them - may be necessary.  Speak with an attorney in the area.  Good luck.


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