Every time someone passes away, arguments over who was promised what instantly begin. These debates frequently get tense when there isn’t a Last Will and Testament. How significant is a verbal vow to leave a specific thing to a specific person? It turns out that this isn’t at all essential. Actually, it doesn’t imply very much at all.
Relying only on verbal promises has several drawbacks. The most obvious is that multiple persons may get the same thing throughout time, and it is hard to remember who received each item most recently. Because of this, a verbal promise to leave anything to a person cannot be included in an estate plan. More significantly, if a person passes away without a Will, it doesn’t really matter who was promised what since the courts will decide how an estate will be divided in accordance with the applicable jurisdiction’s intestate rules. There is basically little chance that a neighbour who was promised a valuable antique would ever get it, unless the legal recipient feels very philanthropic after the estate has been divided.
If there is a will, the estate is divided in accordance with its specific directions. Absolute discretion to disregard a Will’s provisions based on the assertion that a verbal promise was made is not available. Even if the surviving family members believe they can agree on how Aunt Vijaya’s possessions will be divided, the distribution will be decided by the Will, or the court if there is no Will.
The personal experience of often visiting my Uncle Velu of Klang over a number of years and being informed that a certain family artefact was to be passed down to me at each visit served as the inspiration for this piece. Even if dad genuinely intended this to happen and even if he instructed his primary beneficiary that it should, it was not included in the will, and the family treasure was auctioned off before I ever saw it. Someone who has been informed a hundred times that a certain heirloom will be heading their way could be surprised by this.
In the area of estate planning, verbal legacies thus have very little weight. A Last Will and Testament that has been signed and witnessed is the only thing that counts. Never rely on verbal agreements formed over time, and never presume that an estate can be settled amicably without a Will. Making no will is never advantageous, and verbal agreements are worthless.