How Long Is a Will Valid?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
May 19, 2015
BARRY HAIMO: A will is valid indefinitely. It’s important, however, to review it every 3 years or so, as the laws frequently do change.
A “valid will” is a will that is executed according to the terms laid down in the document.
In most cases, your will is valid indefinitely after you pass away. Wills are valid until they are destroyed, or modified by a testator. But individual provisions of a will might be declared invalid at a certain point for various reasons.
In some cases, terms of your will might be challenged in probate court. This may happen if certain formal requirements were not met when you drafted your will.
What Happens in Probate Court
Wills are sometimes known as “tickets to probate court,” especially when dealing with larger estates. Wills act like instruction booklets in probate court—they represent the wishes of the decedent, and the probate courts do their best to fulfill the requests outlined in the will.
If there are disputes over the terms of the will, however, they will be introduced in court. In general, it takes very compelling evidence to invalidate the terms of a will.
For example, if one heir believes that they are entitled to more of your estate, they might try to argue that you were not of sound mind when you wrote the will. But they would have to prove significant mental incapacity at the time of execution to invalidate any terms laid down by your will.
If certain formal requirements aren’t met, your will is susceptible to challenge in probate court. For example, your will must be signed by two witness who are physically present and watching both the testator sign but also each other sign. Consult with an experienced and knowledgeable estate attorney to avoid having your will challenged.
Requirements for Valid Wills in Florida
There are several different types of wills, and only a few are legally valid under Florida law.
Attested Wills. The most common will format, an attested will is written and signed by the testator, and two witnesses must be present.
Holographic Wills. This type of will is not valid in Florida. A holographic will is a handwritten and signed document by the testator, without the signatures of witnesses. Handwritten wills are not considered holographic, however, if they are signed by two witnesses. This would make them valid.
Oral Wills. These wills are spoken to another person and not written. Oral wills are not valid except in limited cases in the context of the military.
Out of State Wills. In most circumstances, wills that are written outside of Florida are valid if the will complies with the laws of the jurisdiction in which they were written.
Revocation by Testator
Before the testator of the will passes away, certain circumstances may require a will to be modified. In these situations, parts of the will – or the whole will itself – may be invalidated. For example, the death of a spouse or divorce may require the terms of the will to be modified.
If a new will is created to replace a prior one, it must contain language indicating this intent. To change individual provisions, a testator doesn’t necessarily need to create an entirely new will. A document referred to as a codicil may be used for smaller changes.
Creating an effective and valid will is essential to ensuring your estate ends up in the right hands. Contact an experienced estate attorney for expert consultation on your estate plan.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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