Kevin Kiley Talks about Wills, Family Trusts, and Estate Planning, Part III Kevin Kiley Talks about Wills, Family Trusts, and Estate Planning, Part III Transcripts:
Interviewer: Occasionally you hear these stories about whereupon a death a person has left a handwritten note with further instructions regarding their estate. Is that really acceptable in a court of law? Of course, the lawyer may have not had an opportunity to prepare that document, and yet the deceased left a last wish in essence.
KK: You're asking me a bar exam question, and it was a long time ago that I took the bar exam. But in New York, you can have a handwritten will, but the will still has to be executed in accordance with the law. So you can hand-write it as long as you sign it. Before you sign it, you state to your witnesses that this is my last will and testament. So you publish it to them, and you have two witness who witness that publishing, your statement that it's your will, they witness your signature, and then they sign as witnesses. You have to tell them, ''I want you to be my witness, this is my will,'' and if it's handwritten it's perfectly valid. Very often you'll have people who will make separate lists, and sometimes we do it in our wills. You'll have someone who has a sentimental attachment to a lot of personal property, and they'll have dozens of items that they'd like to leave to different family members. Sometimes I'll recommend - especially, I had a client once who was calling me up regularly, sometimes twice in one year, to change who was getting a secretary. I didn't know what a secretary was at the time, and it wasn't a living human being, it was a piece of furniture. He would change it around, he had tapestries, he had a secretary, and kept changing it. I suggested that he pick a person of trust, leave all of his personal property to that person of trust, with the notation that ''I have a side-note, and I'd like you to distribute it that way.'' Now, it's not enforceable in a court of law. So if that person of trust turns out not to be so trustworthy, there's nothing that can be done about it. So I wouldn't recommend that for an original Norman Rockwell print. But for a 45 year old secretary, that is probably not - in this case it wasn't - an antique... It really was sentimental value and had belonged to a grandfather, and he kept switching which niece and nephew he was giving it to, depending on who said hello to him that morning, I guess.
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