EXECUTING A FLORIDA WILL: WHAT IS A VALID SIGNATURE?
Did a family member pass away leaving a Florida will? Does the signature on your dad’s will look unusual? Did your mom sign her Florida will with a mark instead of her name? Did your dad forget to sign his Florida will before he passed away? Do you believe that a will admitted to the West Palm Beach probate court was executed incorrectly?
Florida Statute 732.502: Executing a Valid Florida Will
All Florida wills must be executed in strict compliance with certain statutory requirements. Florida Statute 732.502 describes what formalities must be met for a will to be valid in Florida. A valid Florida will must 1) be in writing 2) be signed by the testator or another person at the direction and in the presence of the testator 3) be signed at the end 4) be signed in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses, and the witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and each other.
If a will was filed in a Miami-Dade or Broward probate court that does not meet these statutory requirements, you may be able contest the will. Consider reading Florida Statute 732.502 in its entirety, and interviewing a Florida law firm, like Pankauski Hauser, that specializes in probate litigation.
Contesting a Florida
To contest a will or trust in West Palm Beach, you first want to make sure that you have a strong legal team representing you. The probate attorney that you choose should have years of experience. In addition, make sure to choose an attorney with plenty of TRIAL experience. Many Florida probate lawyers do not litigate or go to trials. Instead, they focus primarily on writing wills and trusts or administering them.
At Pankauski Hauser, we are frequently hired to contest wills. You may be able to contest a will if the testator, or the person who wrote the will, wrote it when they did not have testamentary capacity. For example, if a testator had Alzheimer’s or dementia when he or she executed a Florida will, you may have a good will contest case. You can also contest a Florida will if the testator was unduly influenced by a family member, caretaker or friend to write the will. Unfortunately, financial exploitation of the elderly is frequent in Florida, and we see many cases where victims are coerced to change the beneficiaries in their estate plans. Lastly, you can contest a Florida will if it was not properly executed. For example, you can contest a Palm Beach will that was not properly signed by the testator.
Signing a Florida Will
In addition to the requirements set forth by Florida Statute 732.502, Florida case law is a good resource for what constitutes a valid signature when it comes to Florida wills. For example, In re Williams’ Estate, explains that “ a mark made by the testator at the proper place on his will with the intent that it constitute his signature and evidence his assent to the will is sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirement that he ‘ sign’ his will.” In other words, Florida law allows a testator to sign a will by making a mark if the testator intends that the mark serve in place of his formal signature.
A recent Second DCA opinion, Bitetzakis v. Bitetzakis, is a probate dispute regarding a will that was improperly executed. Specifically, a will was admitted by the Florida probate court that was not properly signed by the testator. The testator’s daughter appealed and won. The daughter was successful in her Florida appeal because the testator had only signed his first name, and he did not sign the will at the end. There was no evidence that the testator had intended for his first name, which could be considered a mark rather than a formal signature, to serve in place of his signature. Therefore, under the particular circumstances, the Florida will was not valid. If you believe that a Florida will was not properly signed, you should read this Florida probate case in its entirety.
To interview law firm in Florida, free of charge, call (561)268-0233 ext.101.