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BBSDTfamily's avatar

Will a hand-written account of our wishes hold up in court in the event of our death?

Asked by BBSDTfamily (6737 points ) March 26th, 2011

It seems the legal fees to have a will and trust drawn up by an attorney is a little over $2k. We (my husband and I) have two small children and we’re very particular about who would get custody of them if we were to both die. Since this would change every 10 years or so (or more often depending on their changing life circumstances) depending on their age, we don’t want to pay to have new wills drawn up so many times. Would a hand written, notarized letter that detailed our wishes hold up in court? The person we wish to have custody is a family member but not a grandparent. Also, we have particular people that we want to get some of our assets. Our life insurance policies are written correctly, but I’m talking about our kids and our cash and other assets. Everyone involved knows our wishes and we have a verbal agreement that they would see our wishes were met. We get along well with all of our family and really have no reason at all to believe that anyone would sue or fight against our wishes. If it matters, I live in Mississippi. THanks!!!

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10 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I wrote a perfectly legal will using Willwriter software. Included in it was instructions for raising our children, since no one on either side of the family were situated the way we wished. The software also gives guidance on what is legally binding in your state.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@zenvelo Thank you! Is that a program you download or buy from a store?

jca's avatar

Legally, the transfer of assets such as personal or real property must be done through Surrogate’s Court. Best not to leave such things without a will, as it will cost more for the heirs to straighten out then it would for you now.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I’ve known a few people who have been satified using Legalzoom.com. I don’t know anything about it, myself, but it’s worth a look.

anartist's avatar

get a legal will template and instructions from Suze Orman here Actually for a first will, I have used this. May change later.

Handwritten will, if found, or especially if left with counsel or notarized, will work if not trumped by later doc

john65pennington's avatar

My mother in law wrote her last will and testament on notebook paper and it held up in court.

Why? Because she used two neigbors as witnesses that testified in her behalf in court for the validity of the will, after her death.

zenvelo's avatar

@BBSDTfamily Willwriter was a program I bought a long time ago. Haven’t looked for it for a long time.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Good for you for talking through this with your family and friends. It amazes me how many people, especially with children, don’t research this and follow through. You need to read up on the laws of Mississippi to get the answers. Your children are too precious to end up awarded to the state because of some technicality.

Jeruba's avatar

It has to be signed and dated; that much is certain. My son the lawyer says it can be handwritten on a paper napkin and still hold up in court as long as it’s signed and dated.

AshlynM's avatar

You don’t need a lawyer to write up legal documents, because as the op stated, lawyer fees can rack up fast. Even attorney drawn up documents can be disputed in court. Handwritten or attorney drawn up papers both have the same chance of legal scrutiny. I’m sure you’ve heard about handwritten diary or journal entries being entered as evidence.

I use computer software called MyAttorney Home and Business and have had no problem with it. It will guide you step by step when filling out your papers what you need to do and even give you advice on what you SHOULD fill in. It costs less than fifty dollars and I believe you can get it at any office supply store. Or you could try Amazon.com.

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