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Florida court weighs merits of competing wills

Florida is a melting pot of people who have moved to areas like Polk County from other countries throughout the world. But, this does not necessarily mean that these people give up all of their ties to their birth country. A recent case that a Florida appellate court decided illustrates the legal complexities that can arise when a foreigner living in the U.S. maintains property interests here and in their birth country.

The issue before the state appellate court in that case involved whether the State of Florida would honor a will that an Argentinian woman executed in Argentina, or the will that she executed in the U.S. The woman died in Florida at the age of 79, and she owned property both in the U.S. and in her home country.

The woman's Argentinian will provided that her entire estate should go to her friends and family in Argentina. But the American will, which she had executed four months prior to the Argentinian one, designated some beneficiaries in the U.S. and some in Argentina. Thus, a will contest ensued between the prospective beneficiaries.

The court's decision turned on the fact that Florida law does not honor oral wills. The woman had executed her Argentinian will by dictating it to a notary who transcribed the will. The woman then reviewed the will and approved it, but she did not sign it. The Florida court explained that if the woman had signed it, state law would have recognized that will as legally binding. However, because she failed to sign it, the court looked at the will as just an oral will and thus unenforceable in Florida.

This case did involve some rare circumstances, but it still shows the importance of preparing a will and executing it in accordance with state law. Any person who wants to have a will should first research all of the applicable laws. An experienced attorney can help Polk County residents with all questions about will execution, as well as any related issues.

Source: WealthManagement.com, "Foreign Will Barred From Probate as a Nuncupative Will," John F. DeStefano, April 20, 2016

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