Monterey Park, CA asked in Estate Planning, Family Law, Civil Litigation and Civil Rights for California

Q: If a suicide note states that everything is to be given to a specified non-relative, can it be contested?

Recently a friend of my husband and I attempted suicide and is currently in the hospital in the ICU in California. He left suicide notes with his instructions on where he wants his stuff to go. He specifically and verbally declared he doesn't want his parents to get anything. He has been estranged from them for a few years. Unfortunately, the police took the notes and neither the social worker nor the police say they can give us a facsimile of them. My husband has been listed as the emergency contact and his parents, when contacted by the social worker, passed/agreed to have the DNR rights/decision to my husband. There were a few pages of notes, but I we were able to get a photo of at least one of them before the police took them. His parents are asking about money and his possessions yet our friend is still alive, albeit sedated. Can they enter his property? Do they have legal claim? I have heard of a holographic will, does this apply here?

3 Lawyer Answers

Genene N. Dunn

PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Tustin, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: A suicide can serve as a holographic will depending on the context of the note itself. I have had 2 suicide notes that have been held up as valid wills. Unfortunately your husband's rights will most likely be limited as long as he is alive as his parents are still considered his heirs. It all depends on what the notes say but your husband might not have a right to see them as long as he is alive. The parents have some rights as heirs, but that might change depending on if the note is a valid will.

Sally Bergman

Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • San Mateo, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I agree with Ms. Dunn, although I would add that I don't believe the parents, unless they first secured a conservatorship over their adult son, would have any right to enter his property. These can be very difficult situations when estranged family members appear only at death to not only claim the assets, but to also claim the right to control the disposition of the body. If your friend had no spouse or children, and no legal document in place giving someone else the right to control that disposition, then the parents would have that right and responsibility. Hopefully, your friend will survive and make a complete recovery, so that none of these issues become a harsh reality.

Ali Shahrestani, Esq.

PREMIUM
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I think the primary concern not addressed here is the legal ability to challenge the validity of the will based on the mental/ emotional stability of this man at the time he drafted the document. Of course, in the event of any probate litigation, the will would have to be subpoenaed as evidence. More details are necessary to provide a professional analysis of your issue. The best first step is an Initial Consultation with an Attorney such as myself. You can read more about me, my credentials, awards, honors, testimonials, and media appearances/ publications on my law practice website, www.AliEsq.com. I practice law in CA, NY, MA, WA, and DC in the following areas of law: Business & Contracts, Criminal Defense, Divorce & Child Custody, and Education Law. This answer does not constitute legal advice; make any predictions, guarantees, or warranties; or create any Attorney-Client relationship.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.