17 Oct Can I Sign Multiple Copies of the Will?
Can I Sign Multiple Copies of the Will?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
October 17, 2019
You may have noticed that often when you are completing legally binding documents – purchasing or selling real estate and other large transactions, for instance – you are required to hand-sign several copies.
This is because, in those situations, each party needs to retain its own set of the same agreement with original signatures. So it makes sense that something as important as your estate would warrant the same handling, right?
Maybe… but maybe not.
While signing multiple copies of your will is perfectly legal, doing so might actually be setting up unanticipated obstacles for you and your surviving beneficiaries.
Below, we share just a few of the complications that can arise when more than a single signed copy of your will exists.
What Is a Will, and Why Is It So Important to Have One?
A “Last Will and Testament” or “will” is a legal document expressing your postmortem wishes. It serves a number of functions but is most commonly known to govern the transfer of your property to designated beneficiaries after you pass.
Arguably the most important reason to have a will is that, in Florida, it allows you the freedom to choose your beneficiaries. Otherwise not having a will means the state chooses them for you.
The same is true for guardians of your minor children.
Of course, if the will can’t be validated, the state will have to step in.
Ensuring the Validity of Your Will
In Florida, you are allowed to make any changes or additions to your will as long as you are of sound mind and they are executed following the letter of the law. One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating an addendum known as a codicil.
According to Florida probate code, “a codicil shall be executed with the same formalities as a will.” This means it must also include the testator’s (that’s yours) and two witnesses’ signatures.
Rounding Up All Copies Can Make Changes Difficult
Suppose a major life event occurs, and because of it, you need to update your will. Now imagine you’ve made five copies of your will and handed them out to the family members included in it.
Can you see the problem? You’re going to have to round all five copies up so that you can make valid changes to all of them! What if your relatives have moved away? What kind of delays could you potentially face?
Self-Proofing Multiple Copies Means Extra Steps (and Extra Fees)
Further, if you decide to take the extra measure of self-proofing, imagine the additional steps (and fees) for also having each individual copy notarized.
The maximum a Florida notary can charge per notarial act is $10. However, they are legally allowed to charge for additional services like travel costs and after-hours fees.
Suddenly, instead of paying $10 and finishing the task in a single afternoon, you’re out $50-plus and several days if you can’t get all five copies into your notary’s hands at once.
Additionally, inconsistencies in codicils may automatically revoke a will, which leads to a whole host of issues associated with its execution after you’ve passed on.
Multiple Copies of a Single Will Can Leave an Estate Open to Dispute
When you are no longer here to personally confirm your wishes, the primary concern with multiple signed copies of your will is that your assets may not be distributed according to your true final wishes.
There is a certain period of time during which wills may be presented to the courts. In the event there are discrepancies among the wills presented – from honest mistakes to outright fraud; it makes no difference – your estate will become tied up in disputes.
Multiple copies of your will could inadvertently wind up costing your bereaved family members more time, money, and heartache that you might imagine.
So ultimately, whether you sign multiple copies of your will is completely up to you. Be aware, however, there are consequences – often in the form of complications – when you do.
For more information regarding estate-specific issues or if you need help with any other estate planning tools, reach out to Haimo Law.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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