It could be legal if it meets certain requirements for a handwritten will. Look up Texas Probate Code Sections 60 and 84, or you can schedule a free consultation with an attorney in your area. A probate attorney can tell you if this "letter" can actually be considered a valid Will under Texas law.
In general, a handwritten will must be completely in the testator's handwriting, signed, and dispose of testator's property upon death.
Again, I recommend meeting with an attorney for help. Even if the letter can't be legally considered a Will, there are options available for legally transferring your brother-in-law's property.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this answer constitutes legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney. Further, nothing in this answer shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until you sign an engagement letter with the Firm. Visit http://www.shuttlawfirm.com or email email@example.com. You may also call Mr. Shutt, a Dallas probate attorney and wills attorney, at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed.
You are going to need an estates lawyer to help you here. Call Mr. Shutt as he offers insight into this problem.
Hope this helps.
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LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law throughout the state of PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States. His phone number is 215-735-2336 or his email address is email@example.com , his website is www.sjfpc.com. and his blog is <http://frommtaxes.wordpress.com/> Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.
I agree with the other responses. Most states have laws providing for "holographic Wills" to be admitted to probate, if they meet certain requirements. Whether your written letter qualifies or not is not clear from your facts.
As is the case with ANY Will, the document only applies to assets titled in the decedent's name alone. If the assets are jointly owned or have a beneficiary designated, the Will would not apply. Additionally, many states have statutes that include allowances and exemptions for children. Even if the document IS determined to qualify as a Will, there may be other issues that you need to deal with.
I highly recommend you meet with a probate attorney to see what you have and how best to proceed. Attorney Shutt has already given you a good response. I would contact him first.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
Take the will to a lawyer and see what he says!
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