A deathbed will is a set of verbal instructions that a dying party gives to another person in the room. Then that person becomes, in some cases, the only one who knows what that person wants in their possessions.
But this is not the only time a verbal will can be used. A person can give a verbal will to a friend or family member even long before his death. They may say they don’t want to go through the legal process of writing and keeping a will, but they do want someone to know their wishes. Many states do not allow the use of these wills, but Massachusetts does allow sailors and soldiers on active duty.
However, as you can imagine, these wills are somewhat problematic and often do not hold up in court. It is wise to have any legal document in writing.
A verbal will may increase the potential for conflict. A written will is difficult—although possible—to be challenged and can help avoid conflict.
For example, imagine that a person has two brothers. The elderly person is accompanied by one of them at the time of his death. This person claims to have been given a verbal will, leaving him the majority of assets, while leaving less to his brother.
This brother may then challenge the will on the grounds that it appears that the other person either changed the will or made it up entirely for his own financial gain. With no witnesses, it’s impossible to know for sure, but the fact that the only person who heard the will is also the one who gets the most assets is bound to raise some red flags.
To avoid such issues, simply know the estate planning steps you need to take to put the formal plan in place.