Is A Holographic Will Valid In Florida?
When most people make a will, they do it with the help of an attorney, or at least with the assistance of friends to act as witnesses. However, in rare situations, a person might execute what is called a holographic will, which is a will made out entirely in the testator’s own handwriting (an important distinction – wills that are typewritten or word-processed are not always considered holographic), without witnesses. While holographic wills are valid in some states, it is crucial to understand that they are not valid in Florida – unless they are executed in accordance with state law. It can be hard to understand the distinction, but it is crucial in order to make the right choices about your estate planning.
Florida state law lays out the criteria that have to be present before a will can be declared viable. The most important is that the testator’s signature must be at the end of the document, (either written themselves or by someone else at the testator’s direction). That signature must happen in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign, so they can attest that the signature was real and acceptable. The witnesses have to sign the will in the presence of both the testator and each other – the more corroboration of a will being real, the better.
While holographic wills are not explicitly excluded by Florida state law, one can read the statute and see that they are excluded because of the witness requirement. If your will is signed by witnesses, it is not holographic, by definition. Florida law also takes the step of invalidating out-of-state holographic wills – in other words, if someone has a valid holographic will, then later moves to Florida and passes away, that holographic will is invalid by law. This is not the way standard wills are handled – if a person executes a standard will in another state and moves to Florida, it will be received as valid in all but the strangest situations. Florida lawmakers clearly fear undue influence on the testator if holographic wills are permitted.
In addition to not accepting holographic wills for probate, Florida state law also does not permit what it calls “nuncupative” wills – essentially, any oral or recorded will. Wills must be written – any kind of recorded sound like a cassette or video tape is not considered a reliable enough record to serve as a will in Florida. Written wills – even if handwritten, as long as they are witnessed appropriately – are the only medium seen as reliable enough to admit to probate.
If you have lost a loved one, and their will is ruled invalid due to its being a holographic will, it will be treated as though they died intestate – as if they had never made a will. Florida, like other states, has a complex series of regulations governing the distribution of assets for someone who has died without a will – generally, the surviving spouse will receive the lion’s share of an intestate estate, and then any children and other relatives will next benefit. If you do not want this to happen, it is critical that you enlist a knowledgeable attorney to make certain that your will meets all the requirements set out under Florida law.
A Florida Estate Planning Attorney Can Help Protect You
It can be easy to forget that a will that is valid in another state is not necessarily valid in Florida. Enlisting a dedicated estate planning lawyer to make sure that all is in order is a crucial first step. Our Naples estate planning attorneys at the Nici Law Firm understand that this area of law is complex, and are ready and willing to help guide you through the little details. Call our offices today at 239-449-6150 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.