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Are oral and holographic wills legal under Florida law?

Nobody wants to plan for, or likely even think about his or her own death, but the reality is that everyone will inevitably die. Therefore, many people consider it a responsibility to plan for their deaths by ensuring that their financial affairs will be properly settled upon their demise. This is especially important where the person has assets that he or she wants to pass down to family or other people.

A will is a vital component to this planning process. But, does a person have to go through the formal process of executing a will? For example, can people just tell someone else their wishes and record the conversations, or can they simply write out how they want to dispose of their assets and sign the documents?

In a prior post, this blog explained the requirements of a valid will under Florida law; these requirements apply to all Florida wills. State law provides that oral wills are not legally acceptable. Likewise, a holographic will, which is where the testator writes a will in his or her own handwriting and signs it, is also not legally binding.

Preparing a will is important, but unless it is executed properly, it will not be legally effective under Florida law. The will must be signed by the testator while in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses must also sign in each other's presence. Although these requirements may sound unnecessary to some people, the point of will formalities is to make sure that the will is authentic and that it truly and accurately depicts the testator's wishes.

People in Polk County who want to begin their estate planning process might want to begin by thinking about their wills. Drafting a holographic will or preparing an oral will can be a good starting point, but it is important to remember that these drafts will not be legally binding. Proper will execution is essential and an experienced wills and trusts attorney can ensure that the testator's will abides by Florida law.

Source: 2015 Florida Statutes, "Execution of Wills," Accessed on Aug. 31, 2015

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