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CAN A SUICIDE NOTE BE A VALID WILL?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an Idaho estate planning attorney, I often get phone calls from clients or potential clients who have questions. I do my best to answer these questions and try to help each individual out as best I can. However, answering questions is usually best done through our free 30-minute consultation, where we can actually spend time with a client face-to-face and can answer their questions about either estate planning, or probate. If you have questions of this sort, we encourage you to contact us for this free 30-minute consultation.

Recently, I’ve had a series of phone calls and questions come in randomly having to do with family members and other loved ones who have passed away by suicide. The circumstance leading to the question that I’ve been asked is that the person who took their own life left a suicide note behind. The question I’ve been asked is whether the suicide note can qualify as a valid last will and testament under Idaho law.

The short answer here is maybe. The reason for this answer is that there are two specific types of Wills that are recognized in Idaho. Each of these will be discussed below, specifically as they relate to a suicide note.

It Can’t Be a Valid Formal Will

The first thing you need to know is that a suicide note cannot be a valid formal Will under Idaho law. This type of Will requires that it be typewritten, that it be signed and dated by the individual who’s making the Will, that it has two separate witnesses who also sign the Will, and that it be properly notarized.

Because these requirements exist for a valid formal written will, most suicide notes are not going to qualify. The reason for this is that most suicide notes are made when the individual is alone. This means that there are no witnesses, and there is no notary. As a result, it would be highly unusual for any type of a suicide note to ever qualify as a valid formal written Will under Idaho law.

It Might Be a Valid Holographic Will

This doesn’t mean that we’re done though, because Idaho also recognizes holographic wills as being valid if they are done correctly. A holographic will simply means that it was written in the person’s own handwriting. To be a valid holographic will, it must be signed by the person who created it, and the material sections of the will must be in the person’s own handwriting. This means that the actual gifts that are set forth in the writing provide clear intent of being a gift that is given to a specific individual.

Because of this, many suicide notes would qualify as a valid holographic will. This then leads us to question of whether since it is a suicide note, the person has testamentary capacity to leave a will. To have capacity you have to have a clear understanding of what it is that you are doing in the Will, which evidences your intent for the gifts you give to actually happen.

There is an argument to be made that if a person is committing suicide, they are not within their right mind. In other words, some people would argue that because it is a suicide note, the person cannot have capacity to do anything that would be considered legally binding. There is no specific law in Idaho that touches on this issue. For this reason, it’s my opinion that many suicide notes actually would qualify as a valid holographic will that could and should be enforced by Idaho law.

If you have questions about a suicide note, or creating your own holographic will, we encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation where we can answer your questions. We have helped numerous clients create their own valid Idaho estate plan, and we are confident that we can help you too.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Pocatello. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lane@racineolson.com. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning problems. I have helped numerous clients create their own customized estate plans and I’m confident that I can help you too.

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