If my father has a notarized letter stating that since he has given me money my inheritance will be reduced by $100K, but he has no money when he passes will I have to pay that money to his estate?

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If my father has a notarized letter stating that since he has given me money my inheritance will be reduced by $100K, but he has no money when he passes will I have to pay that money to his estate?

Asked on February 3, 2016 under Estate Planning, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You say it is a "notarized letter." If it was an actual promissory note signed by you, then the estate could sue you for the money, if you did not pay it; promissory notes are enforceable in court. But if it's only a letter signed by him, then whether or not it's notarized, it is not enforceable against you: it is not anything you agreed to. Therefore, the estate has no viable claim or cause of action against you.
(By the way, people tend to misunderstand what it means to notarize something. Notarizing a document does not turn it into a legally binding contract or the like; all notarizing does is remove doubt that the person(s) who signed it are who he/she/they said they were, since the notary checks identification and then attests that the signers are who they claim. Notarizing has no legal effect other than verifying signtures and identity.)


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