If you make out your last will and testament in your own handwriting, will a Florida court accept it?
It depends. After all, in times past all wills were handwritten, if not always by the person making the will.
Whether or not the probate court would accept a handwritten will depends on whether the will itself is valid. Under Florida law, a will is generally considered valid when it meets the following conditions:
- It is in writing
- The person making the will (the “testator”) is 18 or older, or an emancipated minor
- The testator is of sound mind and free from undue influence
- The testator’s name and signature are at the end of the will
- Two witnesses sign the will after the testator, in the testator’s and each other’s presence
Wills are considered valid when properly executed as a military testamentary instrument, or when the testator is from a state other than Florida and the will is valid in the state where it was signed. A codicil, or change to an existing will, can be made, but to be considered valid it must follow the same formalities listed above.
As long as the will meets all of these requirements, the probate court will generally admit the will into probate. This does not mean that every term of the will is valid, or even legal. For example, there are situations in which a bequest is made for an unlawful purpose, but the will itself could still be valid.
It does not necessarily matter if the will is handwritten if it is otherwise considered valid. In contrast, Florida courts do not accept oral wills, or holographic wills (hand-written wills that are not signed and witnessed according to Florida law).
There is another situation in which it might matter that a will is handwritten. This is when survivors are unable to locate a valid will. In such a case, the laws of intestate succession would generally apply, but the court might choose to consider an invalid will as evidence of the deceased person’s intent. The fact that the will is in the person’s verifiable handwriting could add to its evidentiary value.
Another situation that could arise when someone passes away is the existence of more than one will. Therefore, it is very important to date your will at the time of signing. Generally, only the most recent, valid, last will and testament can be presented to the court for administration of an estate.
If you have questions about the situations mentioned above that could complicate an estate involving a handwritten will, or the proper execution of a will, contact an attorney who focuses on estate planning and administration.