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Florida Supreme Court Rules Against Do-It-Yourself Will

The Florida Supreme Court issued a recent opinion which could potentially impact anyone opting for a do-it-yourself will downloaded from the internet. The underlying case revolved around a woman who used an online form to draft her will. Unfortunately, the will did not include a residuary clause, or catch-all, to dispose of property not specifically mentioned in the will.

After the woman drafted her will, she inherited additional property which was not mentioned in her original will. As a result, she drafted an amendment to her will clarifying that this property should go to her brother. Unfortunately, she did not have anyone else sign the amendment so it was not enforceable.

The trial court determined that the amendment should nevertheless be enforced because it clearly displayed the woman’s intent to leave the remainder of her property to her brother. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed and said that since the original will was unambiguous, outside evidence of her intent was irrelevant.

Therefore, since the property was not disposed of in the original will, it passed through intestacy to the woman’s nieces despite the irrefutable evidence that this was contrary to her wishes.

Such cases are not uncommon. Proper will execution or signing of legal documents is necessary to make them enforceable. While this may seem obvious, a lot of people cut corners anyway to avoid the trouble and perceived expense of doing it by the book. Although it may seem prudent at the time, the time and expense of a will contest for one’s heirs easily surpasses the time it takes to getting it done correctly the first time.

Local Lee lawyers can help people take the simple steps needed to avoid leaving their heirs with a legal battle that will sap resources and sour relationships.

Source: AL.com, “Do-It-Yourself Will: Cautionary Tale,” July 8, 2104

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