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Tampa Estate Planning Attorneys > Blog > Estate Planning > What Are Some Pitfalls Of Handwriting Your Will In Tampa?

What Are Some Pitfalls Of Handwriting Your Will In Tampa?


Jason and his wife Sandra both handwrote their wills on lined paper over 10 years ago. Since then, Jason and Sandra have both retired. They also moved two times, selling, and purchasing property each time. Neither of them updated their handwritten will. The couple were parents to three adult children, who had never discussed estate planning concerns with them. When the couple tragically passed away at the same time, the three children were unable to identify any estate planning documents whatsoever, including the handwritten will. However, assuming they located their parent’s handwritten will, s a handwritten will valid in Hillsborough County? How is a situation like this prevented?

Are Handwritten Wills Legal in Florida?

A handwritten will. or holographic will, is a document written in the testator’s own handwriting. A testator (or testatrix if the person is female ) is another term for the person who is writing their last wishes regarding the administration of their assets and property. Unfortunately, holographic wills are not legally enforceable in the State of Florida unless it is signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses at the end of the document. If the will  is signed and witnessed in this manner, it is no longer considered a holographic will even if it is handwritten.

If someone handwrites a list of  assets and liabilities and directions at to what happens after death, is akin to a “to do list” if it is not signed or witnessed as required by law.  Unfortunately, many do not understand or realize this. When people pass away leaving a holographic will that is not signed and witnessed, their probate estate passes as if there is no valid will and disputes may arise. . Fla. Stat. §732. 502.

What About Updates?

Sometimes, a person does take the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and draft a last will and testament that is finalized. However, life events may trigger an update to your last will and testament. It is important to remember that simply making changes yourself does not replace the original document. In fact, making changes in the margins or in handwriting on the document could invalidate the original will. If you need to amend your will you can amend the will with a codicil . This codicil is an amendment or update to an existing will. To be valid must be signed in the same manner as the original will. Alternatively, you may choose to execute a new will. To ensure that this process is done correctly, it is important that you contact a licensed estate planning attorney to help you.

What Happens When a Holographic Will Is Challenged?

When a probate court does not have a valid will that expresses  the decedent’s last wishes, disputes often arise between interested parties. Interested parties could argue that the testator wished for them to receive a larger share of the estate proceeds, that someone else should have been made personal representative, or that another person is not entitled to anything. These disputes are messy and expensive, but they can be avoided by ensuring a valid will is created so the testator’s wishes are clear.  If a dispute occurs, it could take years for a will dispute to be settled in court, especially if it is handwritten. Simply taking the time today to think about your last wishes can help your loved ones after your passing.

Contact Our Tampa Estate Planning Attorneys at Strategic Planning Law Group

If you need help with complex estate planning, or with administering an estate in probate, our Tampa estate planning attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group are standing by. We have experience in all facets of estate planning including the drafting of last wills and testaments and other planning documents. We can help you identify strategies you may not have considered before. We serve families throughout Greater Tampa including Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call us today to schedule a consultation.



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