Making Sure Your Florida Will Is Valid
When a person decides to write their will, they will often have many, many questions. For many, the first will be about the format in which a will must be written if it is going to be declared valid by Florida courts. This has been a particularly relevant question in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when several changes have been made to procedures involving other documents. That said, Florida rules on the creation of a valid will have changed slightly during the pandemic, as well. It is important to be aware of all the rules before you create your will.
A Few Simple Requirements
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida wills had only to meet a few requirements and they would generally be considered valid. The relevant statute requires even today that “all wills … be in writing” and that certain procedures be observed by everyone involved with the document’s execution. Namely, the testator must sign (or have their name signed) at the end of the document, and that signature must be ‘acknowledged’ by two witnesses. This process must then be repeated in front of a notary public.
In addition, the same statute implicitly treats holographic (handwritten) and nuncupative (oral) wills as invalid. The law does allow wills in the testator’s handwriting to be accepted for probate if they conform to all other regulations – that is, if they follow the format and meet the requirements, the fact that they are handwritten will be overlooked. However, nuncupative wills are uniformly seen as invalid, because there is no unimpeachable record of the testator’s intentions – it is considered too easy to fake an audiotape or mp3 file.
In general, these requirements remain the same as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a law passed in Florida in 2019 has had a fundamental effect on the way people execute wills, even if it was not intended to do so at the time of its creation: the state legislature passed laws permitting the execution of electronic wills, and permitting the use of audio-video equipment to allow witnesses to be ‘present’ at the signing of a will. The law did not become effective until July 2020, but regardless, it has had a profound effect on people who had become all too aware of their mortality.
As of this writing, the legislature has no intent to repeal or alter the laws which permit both electronic will execution and witnesses being able to “appear” via audio-video equipment, such as via Zoom. Electronic notarization was legalized in Florida in January 2020, which means that at least in theory, a potential testator could create a valid will without ever leaving their home. That said, it is always a good idea to consult a knowledgeable attorney before creating any kind of legal document, simply to ensure that the document is executed correctly.
Call A Naples Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience. This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.