Proper Execution of a Will and What Happens When a Will Is Lost?

Proper Execution of a Will and What Happens When a Will Is Lost?

Attorney Sam Tracy

A will cannot dispose of any of the decedent’s property until it is admitted to probate. In order for a will to be admitted to probate, it must be executed in accordance with the formalities required by Florida law. The testator must sign his will at the end in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The attesting witnesses must sign in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. If the testator attaches a self-proof of will, the will may be admitted to probate without further proof. Without a self-proof of will, an oath of one of the attesting witnesses may be required before the will is admitted to probate.

Related videos: The proper signing of a will and Best Practice signing of estate documents.

St. Petersburg probateWhat Happens When a Will Is Lost? Upon the testator’s death, if a will, executed by the testator and kept in his possession, cannot be found, there is a presumption, absent other evidence, that he destroyed it with the intention of revoking it. However, this presumption may be overcome and the will may be admitted to probate if an interested person is able to establish the full and precise terms of the lost or destroyed will. The content of the lost or destroyed will may be proven with a correct copy of the will and the testimony of one disinterested witness. Without a correct copy, the content may be established through the testimony of two disinterested witnesses.

Baskin Fleece handles all aspects of estate planning, probate administration, and litigation. To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

Why Joint Accounts can Bypass Your Estate Planning

Estate planning caution: Upon the passing of one of the joint owners of an account, the account automatically passes to the other person. However that can have many unintended consequences – find how in this 2 minute video:

For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

Why is probate necessary and what qualifies as probate assets?

Beneficiaries of estate planningProbate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent left a valid will, unless the will is admitted to probate in the court, it will be ineffective to pass ownership of probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent had no will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida law.

Probate is also necessary to wind up the decedent’s financial affairs after his or her death. Administration of the decedent’s estate ensures that the decedent’s creditors are paid if certain procedures are correctly followed.

Probate asstetsWhat are probate assets? 

Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death.

Probate asset examples:

  • Probate courtA bank account or investment account in the sole name of a decedent is a probate asset, but a bank account or investment account owned by the decedent and payable on death or transferable on death to another, or held jointly with rights of survivorship with another, is not a probate asset.
  • Probate assets includes life insurance policiesA life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account that is payable to a specific beneficiary is not a probate asset, but a life insurance policy, annuity contract or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate is a probate asset.
  • Real estate as probate assetReal estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common, is a probate asset (unless it is homestead property), but real estate titled in the name of the decedent and one or more other persons as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is not a probate asset.

This list is not exclusive, but is intended to be illustrative.

 

Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.