Florida has specific laws that you must follow to create a valid will. If you fail to follow them, then the probate court will not accept the will after your death, and your estate might go to people who you don’t want to inherit anything.
This might sound like a nightmare scenario. Unfortunately, we have seen this scenario play out many times in probate court. And by the time a judge says your will isn’t valid, it’s too late to fix it.
At Loughlin Law, P.A., we receive questions all the time about handwritten wills. Below, we explain why you should meet with our law firm to create a will that will stand up in probate court. Contact our estate attorney for more information.
Your Will Must Satisfy the Formalities
Under Section 732.502 of the Florida Statutes, your will must be:
- In writing;
- Signed by you (the testator) at the end or your name signed by someone else at your direction and in your presence;
- Signed or acknowledged by you in the presence of two witnesses;
- Signed by two witnesses in your presence and in each other’s presence.
If any of the above is missing, then you don’t have a valid will.
A Will Can Be Handwritten—But it Still Must Satisfy the Formalities
As you can see, the will must be written to comply with Florida law. Importantly, Florida’s statute doesn’t say your will must be typed on a computer. It can also be handwritten.
However, your Florida will must still satisfy all the formalities listed above.
In some states, you can avoid having witnesses if you handwrite your own will. That is not the law in Florida. Your Florida will, even if handwritten, still must be signed by you at the end in the presence of two witnesses, or at least acknowledged to them. And these two witnesses must sign in your presence and in each other’s presence. You can’t avoid these requirements by writing out a will by hand.
Myths about Florida Wills
Myth: My handwritten will is always valid.
Fact: It is only valid if you followed all the requirements in Section 732.502. Consult an attorney if you need assistance.
Myth: A valid will must be typed on a computer.
Fact: Florida law requires that it be in writing. It could be typed or handwritten. What matters is that you satisfy all the formalities.
Myth: My handwritten will doesn’t need to be witnessed because my aunt’s handwritten will was accepted in Texas without any witness signatures.
Fact: Each state sets its own requirements for what is a valid will. In Florida, “all wills” must satisfy Section 732.502 of the Florida Statutes. That includes satisfying the detailed requirements about signing or acknowledging in front of witnesses and having witnesses sign. In some other states, a handwritten will doesn’t need witnesses—but that’s not the law in Florida.
Myth: I can just use an online program to write my will.
Fact: These programs are very unreliable. They might not be set up to create a valid Florida will. You should meet with an estate planning attorney so that you create a will that a judge will accept as valid after your death.
Myth: I don’t need a lawyer’s help to create a will if I just follow Florida law.
Fact: A lawyer provides many valuable services in addition to typing out a will. For example:
- A lawyer helps you identify all of the assets in your estate. Many people aren’t aware of what they own.
- A lawyer can set up an estate plan to look after pets that outlive you.
- Our legal team can help you divide your estate fairly between your children or other beneficiaries. For example, you might have non-probate assets, like retirement accounts or life insurance. If you don’t consider them creating an estate plan, you could create an unequal or unfair division of your assets.
- We can help you leave assets to a disabled child in such a way that they can still qualify for government benefits.
- We can draft a trust, which might provide advantages over leaving assets in a will.
As you can see, creating an estate plan requires substantial planning. Drafting the will (which we can also do) is only a small portion.
Contact Loughlin Law to Schedule a Consultation
We offer will drafting as part of our estate planning services. If you’ve just moved to Florida, or want to create a will for the first time, give us a call. We can go over your estate planning goals and create an airtight plan.