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Insane Delusion

Can you have a will voided in a Florida probate if the person who signed the will was crazy or insane? One of the most recent Florida cases explaining the definition of “insane delusion” was our Fourth District Court of Appeal, in Levin v. Levin, 60 So. 3d 1116 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011), and in that opinion the determination on this issue was actually sent back to the trial court to be heard. So, what is an insane delusion and how do you have a will voided in a Florida estate based on insane delusion? Or, on the other side of the coin, if you are the executor of the estate or you want the will upheld, how do you defend an attack on the will when someone claims insane delusion?

Regardless, the Levin court explained, in pertinent part:

The law states that “[w]here there is an insane delusion in regard to one who is the object of the testator’s bounty, which causes him to make a will he would not have made but for that delusion, the will cannot be sustained.” Miami Rescue Mission, Inc. v. Roberts, 943 So. 2d 274, 276 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) (quoting Newman v. Smith, 77 Fla. 633, 82 So. 236, 236 (1919)). “An insane delusion is a ‘spontaneous conception and acceptance as a fact, of that which has no real existence adhered to against all evidence and reason.’ ” McCabe v. Hanley, 886 So.2 d 1053, 1055 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004) (citation omitted). Id. at 1119.

Insane delusion is not often pled, but is not uncommon. In Miami Rescue Mission, Inc. v. Roberts, 943 So. 2d 274 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006), the testator’s (decedent’s) personality changes were so drastic, and were coupled with her telling her medical professionals that that she was feeling sad and depressed because she thought her caretaker had abandoned her and was failing to care for her dog. The trial court’s determination was upheld on appeal, specifically that the testator was suffering from an insane delusion regarding her caretaker and that she executed her will based on this delusion, which supported the invalidation of that will and the submission of the testator’s prior will to probate. Most Florida probate litigators, who limit their practice to will and trust disputes and disagreements and appeals, will tell you that insane delusion is not argued a lot.

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