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What is a holographic will and is it valid in Florida?

No matter how old you are, writing a will seems like something you can put off until “later”. While you may have good intentions about what you want to leave to your loved ones, it could be difficult to actually complete the task.

Movies and TV shows sometimes depict a person scribbling out a will at the very last moment. The reality is that drafting a will by hand, on your death bed or otherwise, is not a practical option. In Florida, your will (and other important estate planning documents) must meet certain requirements. 

Here’s what you need to know about handwritten wills and Florida’s laws about what is permissible.

What is a holographic will?

Very simply, a handwritten will is a holographic will. In states that allow holographic wills there are generally several requirements that must be met. These can include the need for the signatures of witnesses or other certain circumstances that will ultimately determine the validity of a holographic will.

The idea behind certain states recognizing a holographic will could come from the belief that a person who uses their own hand to write a will would demonstrate that the document reflects their true intentions. Most importantly, the state of Florida does not recognize holographic wills as valid documents.

What does the court do with a holographic will?

In Florida, many estates must go through the probate administration process. If someone passes away and they have a will, the probate process typically begins with the court reviewing the will to determine whether or not it is valid.

In the case of a holographic will, the court usually determines that the will is invalid and proceeds as though there were no will at all. This could undermine a person’s ability to direct who receives their assets upon death, as would have easily happened if they had obtained a valid will. When a person dies without a valid will, or intestate as it is known, the property owned by them at the time of their death passes according to the laws of intestate succession. The courts will then determine who ultimately receives the property of the estate. 

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