A note hastily written and left on your bedside table right before you pass away may be sufficient to act as a will, but not always. This type of will is known as a holographic will, and is accepted only in some states.
In order for holographic wills to be recognized in the states that allow them, three general requirements must be fulfilled: the will must clearly be intended as a final disposition of the individual’s assets, must be written entirely in the individual’s own handwriting, and must have evidence that the individual wrote the will (such as through witnesses or an expert in identifying handwriting). Other general will requirements also apply, such as the testator — the person writing the will — being of sound mind at the time of writing.
When someone dies, all of the individual’s assets including cash, bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, jewelry, electronics, clothes, and any other personal possession becomes part of that person’s estate. Someone who dies with a will is referred to by courts as having “died testate.” Someone who dies without a will dies intestate, and the distribution of his estate is governed by the state’s intestate succession laws.
If a loved one has died, you may have the right to be involved in the proceedings and see the will. There are two different avenues for gaining access to the will:
If you die without drafting a valid will, you are referred to as having “died intestate”. When this happens, the distribution of your assets is governed by your state’s intestate succession laws; essentially, the state automatically applies a standard set of rules for the distribution of your property in the absence of any specific instructions you would provide in a will. Each state deals with intestacy slightly differently, though there are some general rules.