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Handwritten will of Las Vegas police officer honored

Creating an estate plan in Las Vegas, including a will, which defines the desires of a person as to where their assets will go at the time of their death, can be very important. A will typically directs the executor of an estate to distribute property and other assets in accordance with the wishes of the maker. Without such a document, state law may govern the distribution.

In a recent ruling, the Nevada Supreme Court recognized a man's handwritten note as an expression of his desire for the distribution of his assets. A former Las Vegas police officer, the man had left a note written to his girlfriend in 1995 stating that he did not want his family to receive any inheritance at the time of his death. The note was written a number of years after a formal will that was executed by the man in 1975.

The Nevada Supreme Court was asked to determine the validity of a handwritten notation in determining the proper distribution of the $3 million estate. The court decided that the note should take precedence over the executed will. The result was that the estate will now be turned over to the state and placed in its education coffers.

The court noted it has no predisposition for estate funds to go to the state. However, it reiterated its intention to follow the last wishes of a decedent. In this case, the court found that wills which are signed and dated have the same legal effect as formal wills.

While the note written by the man indicated that his Las Vegas estate should go to his girlfriend, she predeceased him in 2002. Had the man executed a new document prior to his own death in 2008, he could have directed that his assets be distributed differently. As such, the case underscores the need to periodically review estate planning decisions in order to ensure that one's assets are handled in the manner they wish after their death.

Source: The Republic, "Nevada high court honors man's handwritten note cutting family out of will; $3M goes to state," Feb. 17, 2012

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