A handwritten will is often referred to as a holographic will. The person writing the will (testator) writes down all his/her assets on a piece of paper and defines how they should be distributed after death. He or she may also name a personal representative in the handwritten will. At the end of the document, the will has to be signed and dated. Is a handwritten will legal in Florida?
Unfortunately, a holographic will written as above, that is not signed by two witnesses, is not recognized in Florida. For example, a person may have created a holographic will in another state or another country and then moved to Florida. Under Florida law, however, a holographic will is not valid. Are handwritten wills legal in Florida? For a holographic will to be valid in Florida, not only does it have to meet all the criteria set out by Florida law, it has to be signed in the presence of two witnesses.
What are the Will Requirements in Florida?
- The person making the will must be at least 18 years of age.
- The will can be typed or handwritten.
- It must be signed at the end by the testator.
- The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses.
- The two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of each other and the presence of the testator.
What this means is that you can have a handwritten will made but to make it valid in Florida, it needs to be signed in the presence of two witnesses. As long as you follow the Florida rules on how to make a will, then a handwritten will is considered valid. In general, a holographic will is usually created in certain unusual situations. For example, your father may be seriously hurt in a car accident and wants to quickly dictate his wishes in a will in writing, just in case he does not make it. Another similar scenario is a person in the hospital who is close to dying but wants to make out a will. In this case, a handwritten will signed in the presence of two witnesses will be valid.
Can I Make Changes to My Handwritten Will?
Some people who have handwritten wills may want to make changes or add in more information. Simply crossing out or adding new information to an existing handwritten will is not acceptable, unless it follows the guidelines established by Florida law. A probate court will throw out all the edits or changes made to the handwritten will if they were not made properly.
If you are making only minor edits or changes to the handwritten will, it has to be amended by creating what is known as a codicil. The codicil allows you to make minor changes to the will. But the codicil again has to follow Florida’s law. This means the changes have to be made in the presence of two witnesses who also have to sign it. It may or may not be notarized. If the codicil is prepared according to Florida law, it is accepted by the probate court.
If you are making major changes to your handwritten will, then the best advice is to create a new will.
Can I Make an Oral Will?
It is also important to understand that in Florida every will must be in writing. Florida does not accept any oral wills. If you orally transcribe your will to someone, this is not considered to be a valid will in the state of Florida.
Why Should You Avoid Making a Handwritten Will?
- Are handwritten wills legal in Florida? If it is not properly executed according to Florida law, the handwritten will is not considered valid.
- A written will created at the last minute may be ambiguous and may not clearly reflect your true intentions. To make a proper will means first making a draft, documenting all your assets, selecting an executor, and naming the heirs. When a will is handwritten quickly, there is a good chance that it may miss important things, like the complete list of investments, all the bank accounts, rightful beneficiaries, etc. By taking the time to consult with a lawyer, one can make a will that is not only valid but will also ensure that it covers all the important aspects, including your beneficiaries.
- Not all your assets will undergo probate and you need to know what you have to list and which ones you can avoid. An experienced estate lawyer can help you figure out assets that must be used for probate, and also that everything is done correctly so as not to have any problems later.
- When a will is handwritten, the two witnesses will need to present themselves during the probate process to verify the signature of the decedent. Usually, this can be avoided by creating what is known as a self-proving affidavit, that has been properly notarized.
What Happens if a Holographic Will is Rejected by the Court?
Is a handwritten will legal in Florida? If the holographic will did not follow the Florida guidelines, it will be rejected. Then all your assets will pass through Florida Intestacy Statute, which means that the court will decide how your assets are distributed to your heirs. The Florida Intestacy statute makes the distribution based on a list of preferences set out by law.
- If you were married at the time of your death, your spouse is the first person to inherit your estate.
- If you have no spouse, then your children will have the assets equally divided.
- If you have a spouse but have children from a different marriage, then the spouse will get 50 percent and the children will receive the remaining 50 percent.
- If you and your spouse have children but your surviving spouse also has children from a previous marriage, then the spouse will get 50 percent and the other 50 percent will be divided equally between your children only.
- If there is no spouse and no children or grandchildren, then your parents are next in line to receive the assets. If your parents are deceased, then the assets move to your sisters and/or brothers.
- If there is no family at all, then the property is transferred to the State of Florida.
Are handwritten wills legal in Florida? If you are considering making a will, consult with a lawyer that is experienced and knowledgeable in Florida laws as they relate to wills and probate matters. This way you can avoid all the uncertainties that might go with making a handwritten will at home. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the will-making process and ensure that your assets do not go to unintended beneficiaries. The cost of making a will is minuscule compared to the hassles of dealing with an improperly created handwritten will. Is a handwritten will legal in Florida? Contact Elder Law at 1-561-933-5074 to have all your questions answered by people who know.