December 10, 2021
If a Will clearly explains your wishes upon your death, does it matter if it is typed or if it is in your own handwriting? What if a Will is in a decedent’s own handwriting? These nuances are very important, and these nuances affect the admissibility of the Will in Florida.
In the State of Florida, a “holographic will”, i.e., one which is written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, is not admissible in probate court. However, there is an exception: if the handwritten will is properly signed by the testator and witnessed in the presence of two witnesses. A properly-executed handwritten will is not considered “holographic” and generally speaking, can be admitted to probate.
What are the consequences to the lack of witnesses or improper execution? Family members that you may have little relationship with may end up inheriting your estate, rather than your fiancée, a decades-long life partner, or your childhood best friend which is whom you would wish to receive your estate.
Additionally, even if an unwitnessed handwritten will is admitted in another state, the State of Florida takes has a very strict position with the execution of wills. The witnesses are required. In cases where the handwritten will is not witnessed, the Florida probate would then proceed through intestacy – i.e., as if there is no will at all – and the default Florida intestacy statutes would then be followed.
The lesson is this: work with your trusted estate or probate lawyer on your estate plan. If you do want your wishes to be carried out, any failure to follow Florida’s witness requirements would preclude your testamentary wishes from actually happening.