What makes for a valid codicil?

UPDATED: Jul 26, 2011

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What makes for a valid codicil?

My cousin passed away. A few days before she died she had written on a piece of paper that she wanted me to have $20,000. However after the house was sold her son, the executor, only gave me $15,000. Do I have any recourse?

Asked on July 26, 2011 Massachusetts


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  What your cousin wrote on the piece of paper as a codicil is technically known as a holographic codicil, meaning that it is hand written.  The laws regarding handwritten codicils follow the laws of the state on handwritten Wills.  In other words, if a state recognizes a holographic Will then it will recognize a holographic codicil.  Unfortunately, Massachusetts does NOT recognize holographic Wills and so the codicil, as written, would not be recognized by the probate courts.  So the fact that he honored his Mother's wishes on the level that he did was really a noble gesture on his part.  He did not have to give you anything under the law. 

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