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Lost and Destroyed Florida Wills– who destroyed it?

Uncategorized Sep 25, 2013

What do you do if you know, or if you believe, that someone who just passed away had a will, but you can’t find it?  What do you do if you can’t find someone’s will, but you know he or she had one?  In Florida, probate lawyers know that you may be able to admit to probate a lost or destroyed will.  This process, or proceeding, is a creature unto its own, with unique rules and procedures, as well as interesting legal presumptions.  If the decedent (who just died), passed away with the will in his or her possession, there may be a presumption that he or she destroyed the will.   But Florida has a policy to favor the distribution of an estate by a valid last will, rather than by the laws of intestacy.   If one who was negatively financially impacted by the believed-to-be last will had access to the location of the will, and the will cannot be found, there may be a presumption that that person — not the decedent — destroyed it.  So, if you are “cut out” of a will and you had access to the decedent’s papers or safe deposit box, or file cabinet where legal documents were kept, and now that will cannot be found, and you are seen leaving with some of the decedent’s documents:  watch out.  You may be accused of destroying that will.   A petition to prove a lost or destroyed will requires one to provide at least one disinterested witness to the will to prove the will was signed and also to prove the contents of the will.   Advocate hard.  Litigate smart.