A suicide note but no will

Kind of a morbid question but… If someone commits suicide, and they haven’t made a will, but they leave behind a suicide note detailing what they’d like to have done with their money, possessions, etc., is it likely that those instructions will be followed?

I did try to google the question, but didn’t find that much information.

As far as I’m aware most jurisdictions accept a handwritten will (in the deceased’s handwriting)as gospel, but if it’s in conjunction with a suicide note the issue of the deceased being of “sound mind” might become a big issue, depending on the circumstances of course.

Here’s an article on just that:

It goes on to discuss variation in the standards for holographic wills and testamentary capacity in different jurisdictions.

I suspect that the final outcome would largely be determined by how controversial the will was. If cut out relatives who had expected an inheritance, they would certainly contest it. On the other hand, if everyone got more or less what they had expected, even if there was a bequest to a lover no one had been aware of, it would probably be accepted.

Even in the UK, challenging a will, however dubious, is a lengthy and costly procedure.

It’s a state by state decision whether holographic wills are accepted. Only half the states allow them.

If a state doesn’t allow holographic wills then the standard rules of intestate inheritance apply.

What about outside the United States?

From the article:

On the other hand holograph (handwritten) documents are becoming rarer and rarer. I don’t handwrite anything except my signature. I handprint a few things, but only if I don’t have a chance to type it.

If/when I get around to making a will, I’m going to make sure it is really holographic. Or at least incorporates one of those seeing eye puzzles.

For the purposes of the law around holographic wills, I’m pretty sure “printing” by hand is a type of handwriting, not some other thing.

My father’s handwritten (and witnessed) will still had to go to probate in New Jersey.

You can’t (AFAIK, IANAL) challenge a will just because you don’t like it. You can argue one of several things - the writer was not of sound mind, undue influence, not clear, persons not mentioned were forgotten rather than deliberately left out, etc. Proper wording can handle some of these situations, which is why professional help is strongly recommended.

I.e. If you leave all your estate to one son and don’t mention the other - did you forget him? If you instead say “and nothing to my son Ted” then at least they know the act was deliberate. Also - if one of your children predeceased you and the will was not updated - did you for example mean that their share goes to their heirs, or is split among your surviving children? And so on…

Which immediately made me think, in context of OP, how this is satirically argued out by the two clowns in Hamlet: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/hamlet.5.1.html

Holographic wills are definitely accepted in Quebec. Also handwritten codicils to notarial wills. But I imagine a bizarre bequest might be challenged on the grounds that a suicidal person was not of sound mind.

Thanks for the information, all.

It’s been brought up a few times that a suicidal person might not have been of sound mind. I’m a bit curious as to how that’s determined, especially if the person succeeds in committing suicide and hadn’t been getting professional help or hadn’t seemed particularly depressed.

There would be a court proceeding, and a judge would decide. I’m not an estates lawyer, but I think the way it would work would be that the dead person’s executor would open a case in probate court, basically submitting the will for approval by a judge, which in this instance would be the suicide note. Some disgruntled would-be heir who got left out of that will would file an objection, claiming that the dead person was not of sound mind when the note was written. I think the excluded heir has the burden of proving that claim and would have to submit to the court whatever evidence he or she has of the deceased’s state of mind. It’s possible that a court might accept the argument that suicide in and of itself, without any other evidence, meets that burden of proof, but the heir would be in a much stronger position if there were other, independent indicators of the deceased’s lack of sound mind leading up to the suicide.

My will should have a seeing-eye puzzle at the bottom and if you can get it to work then it says “just kidding”.

My last prank on my family.