Q: Do I have any rights to property such as a car that was promised to me upon someone’s death but wasn’t written into the will?
The answer is no. If the promised was documented somehow and he delivered the title to you before he died and signed the title, then the gift may be enforceable. It would also be enforceable if the deceased left a personal property memorandum attached to the will designating how he wanted his valuables distributed.
It has to be in writing and just an email promising that the gift would happen upon hi death would not be sufficient. An email does not satisfy the formalities required of the last will and testament or of the codicil (defined below) to the last will and testament and would be most likely viewed as merely an expression of present intention.
Now, if he had complemented the email with a note that he left behind with his will, which he dated and in his own handwriting said, “I want to amend my will to provide that the Jaguar goes to Johnny” and then signed and dated, then it would be acknowledged in the state of New Jersey as a codicil to the will and would be effective.
What is a codicil?
The codicil is a document which amends or modifies an existing last will and testament, typically are in a very short form, and were much more widely utilized when wills were type written out as opposed to wills created with word processing that can be easily amended.
For example, if you have a 25-page will and on page three it says, “I want to leave my house to my son James if he survives me” and then there is a falling out with James, a codicil can amend and eliminate the gift of the residence to James and substitute the language to leave it to someone else.