All of the property, money, and items a person possesses when they die is called their “estate”. A last will and testament is a set of instructions for the surviving family and friends on how the deceased wants their estate divided. A will can also appoint legal guardians for any children that are in the picture. There is much confusion about last wills and testament. This leads many people to wonder: is a handwritten will legal?
If someone dies without a legal last will and testament in place, their death is an “intestate” death. In the matter of intestate deaths, the estate is divided according to state codes.
Building a will can be a daunting process. Meeting all of the legal requirements to ensure a will’s validity is one of the main stresses associated with the process. Many people use an attorney or legal service to write a will, but some prefer to write their own.
Read on to learn the requirements for a valid will in Florida, as well as what wort of wills are not recognized by the state.
Legal Requirements of Wills in Florida
In legal terms, the person writing the will is called a “testator”. The testator must be of sound mind, which simply means that they can think, reason, and understand for themselves. The only requirement other than that is they must be a legal adult (ages 18 and older) or an emancipated minor.
There must be two witnesses that sign the will along with the testator. The witnesses must also be adults of sound mind. All three individuals must sign the will in the presence of one another. Beneficiaries of the will are legally allowed to be witnesses, but it is often better to have objective witnesses.
A beneficiary is someone who will receive something from the estate when the testator passes. If a beneficiary signs the will, it does open the door to others to contest the will. The will can be contested on the grounds that a witness exerted influence on the testator. Even if this is an untrue claim, it can lead to an unnecessary and drawn out legal battle.
Wills can be “self-proven” to guarantee validity. The will is considered self-proven if all of the relevant people sign it in front of a notary. Although many legal experts consider a self-proven will ideal, it is not required in the state of Florida.
So Can I Handwrite My Will?
Yes, you can! As long as you adhere to the rest of the state requirements.
If a person handwrites the will and signs it without any witnesses present, then it is called a holographic will, and it is not recognized by the state as a legal document. Even if the holographic will is legal where the testator wrote it, the will is still considered invalid by the state of Florida.
The other type of will that is recognized elsewhere, but not in Florida is a nuncupative will. Nuncupative wills are verbal wills made in the presence of witnesses. Oftentimes, nuncupative wills are made when a person is terminally ill or on their death bed because writing at that time is impossible.