Is a Handwritten Will Valid? Everything You Need to Know About Holographic Wills
Will creation is not a pleasant subject, and hardly anyone ever wants to discuss it. However, those that delay preparing this critical document may find themselves on their "deathbed" trying to get their affairs in order at the last minute. What often ends up happening is they try to cut corners, thinking they can just create their own handwritten will and that it will serve its purpose.
Unfortunately, in Florida, these types of wills generally do not hold up in court and, in fact, often create a massive amount of issues for your family to deal with once you are gone.
That is why, to help clear up some of this confusion surrounding holographic wills, we have prepared the following blog post. In it, we will go over what these holographic wills are, the complications associated with them, and how you can create a proper will that is recognized in Florida.
What Exactly Is a Holographic Will?
A holographic will is a handwritten will that an individual (testator) simply writes out and signs in their own handwriting. Generally, these wills are not witnessed or notarized properly.
Many states, including Florida, do not recognize holographic wills under any circumstances, even if they were validly executed in another country or state. As a result, if you created a holographic will, the probate court can disregard it, and your assets will be distributed according to Florida's intestacy laws.
Potential Complications of a Handwritten Will
Although a holographic will can create more opportunities for individuals to make a will, especially when they need to create one quickly, it can also cause numerous unintended complications. For instance, judges may have a hard time recognizing a handwritten will because it may be challenging to read the writing or verify the individual's handwriting. The court can bring in witnesses who knew the testator and their handwriting to verify this writing, but if there are any disagreements, the court will need to use handwriting experts.
That is why, to avoid these disagreements, valid wills require witness signatures to help these courts verify the testator's identity. However, since a holographic will is usually only signed by the testator, no witnesses can attest to the testator's mental state or intent.
Creating a Valid Will in Florida
As previously mentioned, a handwritten will is not valid in Florida. However, if you are looking to create a valid will in the state, you must make sure you meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old, or be an emancipated minor
- Be of sound mind, which means that at the time you created the will, you could understand the nature and extent of the property that your will covers, your relationship with your loved ones and those who will inherit your assets according to your will, and the practical effect of your will
- You must sign the will in the presence of at least two competent witnesses
- Your decision to execute the will must be free and voluntary; this means you cannot create it as the result of improper coercion or persuasion
- The witnesses must sign the will in your presence and the presence of another witness
Although the general rule for creating wills was that you and the witnesses needed to be in each other's physical presence, today, Florida has permitted the use of electronic wills, which allows you to execute and witness these wills remotely.
According to Florida regulations, any individual of sound mind can serve as a witness to your will. Yet, it is recommended that you choose an individual who is "disinterested," meaning they would not be entitled to receive any benefits from your will. This makes the Last Will and Testament harder to challenge in court.
In addition, Florida does not require you to notarize the will to make it valid. However, a notary is needed to make the will “self-proving,” which means it can be admitted to probate without needing your witnesses' testimonies, which can help speed up the process.
To create a self-proving will, you and your witnesses must sign a self-proving affidavit in addition to the will, and the affidavit needs to be notarized.
Make sure that the two witnesses who were present during the signing of the Florida Last Will and Testament are the same witnesses who sign the Will’s self-proving affidavit.
Get the Legal Help You Need Creating Your Will—Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today
When it is time to create your will, you can end up saving your family and loved ones a lot of time and confusion by working with an experienced estate planning lawyer. These attorneys can not only help ensure that your legal documents are prepared accurately, but they can also make sure they conform to the state regulations and fit your specific needs and desires.
If you are on the fence about creating a will, or want to consider a revocable living trust to avoid probate altogether, or are unsure if you actually need these documents—do not wait any longer to get the help you need. Instead, reach out to a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer today and let them go over the questions you have and help you determine what your next legal steps should be.