Handwritten Notes and Property Distribution in Texas

EDITOR’S NOTE:

When a person dies, there may or may not be handwritten notes or instructions that touch on the distribution of property. In this informative blog post, our attorneys discuss the status of these notes under Texas law. This situation may be only one component over a will contest or estate / trust dispute under Texas law.

Posted: June 7, 2016

Handwritten notes that talk about who gets what at the time of death are usually not enforceable.

Many individuals will leave behind written notes as to certain property and who they want to receive what at the time of death. Sometimes, these hand written notes are made after a person has Estate Planning Texascreated a valid will or trust. However, if a hand written list of items of property, whether real estate or personal property, includes a designation of who is to receive what at the time of death, it is not legally binding until signed by the person making the list with evidence to indicate he or she was making the list with the intention that it govern how certain property would be distributed at the time of death. If there is uncertainty as to whether notes or any other hand written instructions are valid, have them evaluated by an attorney to determine whether they will be given legal effect after the death of the person who wrote them.

If default is the lack of reasonable diligence, then we should all be diligent to seek the admission of a Will within four years. The courts may be very forgiving on this confusing limitations statute, but even that forgiving approach has its limits.

EDITOR’S SUMMARY

How property gets distributed after someone dies can be very contentious. A formal will may or may not exist, as can be the case with hand-written notes. Under Texas law, these written instructions may have only limited validity. If you are facing a possible will contest or dispute over an estate, reach out to one of our Dallas-based attorneys. A consultation is your first step towards understanding your rights during an inheritance dispute.