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Are verbal wishes valid after death?

Santa Barbara, CA |

My BF's sis died today. She was clear to all family members she wanted my BF to take her car upon her death. She has a Will but didn't put this in writing. There are other personal items she told family members she wanted them to have. I believe her Will only mentions big things like money & real property. She was "helped" (pressured) by a brother & his paralegal GF, who convinced her to name him as Executor. She shared her misgivings with us about naming him as Executor over the past several weeks (she was dying of leukemia). During her last 2 days of life, I heard him say several times that all he wants is his "equitable share." At the moment of her death, he proclaimed himself Executor & refused to turn over the car to my BF, saying it all is part of the Estate now. Is that right?

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Attorney answers 3


Verbal wishes will not be binding under California law. A will, or a "codicil" to a will would have been necessary. If you try to remove your brother based on duress or undue influence, that will not help to enforce "verbal wishes."

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


It is true that verbal wishes are not legally binding on the executor if property not specificed in will. However, if all family members unite and agree that the verbal wishes should be honored and each receive what they were promised, the executor has a moral duty to comply. Family pressure is the only way to go.

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"Family pressure"?


I agree with both counsel here. The decedent's verbal wishes are not a substitute for a will. Hopefully, she also expressed those wishes to the brother, that he will agree to follow them and the rest of the family (those named in the will) will go along with it.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.