Does a hand-written letter hold priority over a will?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Does a hand-written letter hold priority over a will?

In my grandfather’s will, which my
petty aunt is executing, he wishes to
leave his house to my sick mother and
aunt, and sell it, splitting the money.
However, in recent times, my
grandfather wrote a letter and stashed
it in the house, stating that as long
as my mother is living there when he
goes, my aunt is not allowed to touch
the house.
When the inevitable happens, I fear my
aunt will disregard the letter and pull
the house from under my mother, kicking
her to the street. My mother remains
ignorant to my aunt’s money-grubbing

Can this written letter hold water
against the will? Is my grandfather
better off mailing the letter to
himself so USPS time stamps it after
the last will revision? How long could
we stay at the house until my aunt
kicks us out?

Asked on March 28, 2017 under Estate Planning, New Jersey


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

My research suggests that in NJ, although a writing was not executed in compliance with state law regarding Wills, it will be is treated as if it had been so executed if it can be demonstrated that the writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence the decedent intended the writing to constitute an addition/alteration of their existing Will. So this letter may stand (or it may not). That having been said, to be sure that your grandfather's wished are carried out, he should just make a new Will. Forms are available online and are inexpensive. This would be a better way to handle this situation. Or you could consult with a probate attorney to get their adise based on specific state law.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption