Jasper, AL asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Alabama

Q: Can a verbal agreement and/or verbal promise be legally binding for a will?

When dad died, stepmom made a verbal agreement and a verbal promise that, when she passed away, her stepdaughter would receive dad’s inheritance and her daughter would get hers. However, when she died, her daughter got everything. Stepdaughter was never told that stepmother had passed away. Stepmother died in March, 2023.

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: No.

At best, stepdaughter might have a claim based upon promissory estoppel if she made some sort of out-of-pocket expenditure in reasonable reliance upon stepmom's verbal promise. Her measure of recovery would be limited to the out-of-pocket expense she incurred.

A will--even if written and signed with all of the legal formalities--can be changed or revoked at any time prior to the death of the testatrix (i.e. stepmom in this instance).

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