Estate Planning Law

Is a Hand Written Will Valid in Florida?

As the year draws to a close, you might find yourself more focused on the future.  You might consider how you would like your assets to be distributed to your loved ones as you build your nest egg.  There are, however, a number of rules in Florida law that dictate how you need to express your wishes in a last will and testament.  So, in most cases, a handwritten will – known in legal terms as a holographic will – is not valid in Florida.

In this article, we will discuss some of the main aspects of a holographic will and what you need to watch out for if you have a loved one who is considering, or already has a handwritten will.  If, after reading this article, you have additional questions on getting your own estate planning started, then we welcome you to contact the Palm Beach County lawyers at Doane & Doane, PA.  Call today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.

What is a Holographic Will?

A holographic will is a Last Will and Testament that is written in your own handwriting.  The most common way we see holographic wills is when a person puts pen to paper and writes down how he would like to distribute assets to family and friends when he passes away, and then signs the document.

That is the classic example of a holographic will – and that form of will is not recognized in Florida – even if it was validly executed in a different state or country.

That said, there is another type of will that is considered “holographic.”  That is a will that has already been created and properly executed, but then the testator (the person making the will) makes changes to the document by hand. In our practice, we sometimes see properly executed last wills with cross-outs and handwritten changes.  A will with handwritten changes will also be considered a holographic will, and Florida law will not recognize it.

In sum, a holographic will is a last will and testament that involves handwritten information, which was not properly executed under Florida law.  

So, if you currently have a will that is simply written by hand and signed, or is a will that you have made handwritten edits to, you would be wise to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as you can.  You want to be sure that your wishes are honored when you pass.  The way to do that is to make sure that you have a properly executed last will and testament.  

How Do You Properly Execute a Will Under Florida Law?

Florida law has a number of requirements that ensure that a last will and testament will be honored when the testator passes away.  Those requirements are as follows:

1. The last will and testament must be in writingA will delivered orally will not hold up in court.
2. The will must be signed by you, the testator.
3. The will must also be signed in the presence of two attesting witnesses.

Now, even though Florida law does not view holographic wills as valid, if a handwritten will is executed with the above requirements satisfied, then a Florida probate court will no longer view the will as holographic and will honor the provisions in the last will and testament.  

So, just because a will is handwritten does not end the inquiry.  If the handwritten will is executed properly, then it can be enforced as valid. 

Why You Should Avoid a Hand Written Will Anyway

Even though a will written in your own hand could be valid if executed properly, that does not mean that it is a good idea to handwrite your last will and testament.  There are a few reasons for that. 

First, handwritten will tend to occur when someone is near death.  In those circumstances, it may be difficult to have the will executed properly.  

Second, English is not a precise language.  You might write something down in your will that you may believe is clear, but it could be vague or confusing enough to create litigation among your potential heirs.  Drafting a will to use precise language can be difficult and requires the help of a seasoned estate planning attorney.

Finally, there is a chance that you forget to list a certain asset in the will or some of the assets you list might not be able to be passed on.  

Make Sure Your Will Is Properly Executed – Call Doane & Doane

Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.

Estate planning is about much more than just giving away property.  It is an act of love and kindness, with the ultimate goal of providing for the future financial security of your loved one.  At Doane & Doane, our tax and estate professionals help people plan for retirement, consider various types of wills and trusts, make provisions for loved ones, figure out future child support, and minimize tax liability.  Experienced wills and trusts attorneys know which tools to use to get the best results for their clients.  Our lawyers can help you determine which tools are best suited to your specific circumstances.

When it comes to probate matters, such as the formal administration of an estate, Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys at Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates.  Notably, the founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys.  With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Since the day we opened our doors, we have worked hard to earn a reputation as one of the region’s most prominent tax and estate planning law firms in Palm Beach County, Florida. Our dynamic team includes the firm’s founding partners, experienced associate attorneys, and an outstanding team of paralegals, legal assistants, and support

Call the Palm Beach County lawyers at Doane & Doane, P.A.  You can reach us at 561-656-0200.  Call us today.