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What is a holographic will?

Imagine driving home on a rainy night in Miami, and seeing a poor-looking man standing on the side of the road. You stop to assist him by taking him to nearby eatery to warm up and get some food. Before leaving, he claims to be a millionaire, and to repay your kindness, he uses a napkin to write out a will leaving his entire fortune to you. A few days later, news breaks of the death of a local business magnate who had become a recluse. You recognize the person as the man you helped. 

Such stories make for entertaining tales, yet one might wonder whether an informal handwritten will like the one described would actually be valid. Such a will is referred to as a "holographic will." Some states do recognize such wills as being valid, even to the point of not requiring witnesses to their signings. Often, all that is needed to establish their validity is the confirmation that the handwriting is that of the decedents in question. 

Unfortunately, Florida does not recognize holographic wills. That is not to say, however, that you or another cannot handwrite your will. According to Section 732.502 of the state's Probate Code, the following elements are required to properly execute a will: 

  • A testator signing a proposed will or allowing another you or another to sign it on his or her behalf in his or her presence
  • Two witness (you and another or two different parties) viewing the signing or the acknowledgement of the testator that he or she did sign it (or authorized the signing of it). 
  • The two witness signing the will in both each other's and the testator's presence

If a handwritten will is executed in this manner, Florida law does not consider it to be a holographic will. 

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