Is A Handwritten Will Valid In Florida?
Thinking about the idea of a will, to many, is a complex and even dreaded subject. Because it means dealing with what happens when we die, it can be tough to approach and discuss with our families and advisors.
However, creating a will is a task where the alternative – dying without anything in place– can create new problems and make things worse for the loved ones you leave behind. Ideally, this will get done while you are still relatively young and healthy. But we know this is not always the case. Time catches up to us all, and sometimes people wonder if they can jot down their final wishes on paper to save time and money. You may have had a friend or family member in another state who tried this approach and believe it could also work for you.
Unfortunately, in Florida, handwritten wills generally do not hold up in court and can create new problems for your family when your estate ends up in probate. Disputes can arise between family members, for example, that are not easily settled by a contestable handwritten will.
Problems with Handwritten Wills in Florida
Florida’s law on wills requires the following to be true for a will to be valid and recognized by a probate court:
- The testator’s signature. The will must be signed by the person creating the will (the “testator”) at the end of the document. In some situations, the will can be signed by another person if it is in the presence of the testator and at their direction.
- Witnesses. At least two people must witness the signing of the will. They must sign in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other. These formalities can seem burdensome but are critical when reviewing a will and distributing assets and property. A probate judge needs to know that the document is what it says it is, and witness requirements have long supported the validity of these documents. This applies to supplements known as “codicils” to wills as well.
When a will fails to meet Florida’s requirements for validity, a person’s estate can fall subject to Florida’s laws of intestate succession. Florida law will govern how a person’s estate will be distributed amongst their family. It will be distributed in the following order: spouse, children, grandchildren, parent, siblings, children of siblings, and so on. If a person has no family or formal plan in place, it will escheat to the state or pass to the state of Florida.
Handwritten will also invite scrutiny due to practical issues – such as whether a probate judge or attorneys can read and interpret the testator’s handwriting. A handwritten will could make sense to the person writing it and their families, but it will ultimately fail if a probate court can’t reasonably interpret it.
When it comes time to start thinking about a will, the best strategy is to consult with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney that has done these before. A legal expert can help you create a valid Florida will that will hold up in court and ensure your final wishes are carried out and respected.
The Tampa Estate Planning Attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group, L.C., Can Help You Draft a Successful Florida Will
The Tampa estate planning attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group, L.C., understand that creating – or even thinking about – a will is one of the more difficult things you may go through with your family. Our compassionate advisors are here to help and ensure you have a reliable document to carry out your goals effectively. Start the conversation today by calling our attorneys at 813-286-1700 or by scheduling a consultation online.