By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
September 20, 2018
Riverton Man Leaves Millions to Local Charities in His Handwritten Will
What do you want your legacy to be after you pass away? If you have not thought about the answer to this question, let the story of Tom Woodyard be an inspiration.
Tom Woodyard lived in Riverton, Wyoming. He was a single man who did not have any children. When he passed away in October 2016, he left an 18-page handwritten will that distributed his estate, valued at over two million dollars, to 83 different charitable organizations.
Donations were made to religious institutions, Meals on Wheels, hospices, the local Boy Scouts, and other organizations that had impacted Woodyard’s life. As his estate was being distributed, the entire Riverton community was able to celebrate his charitable legacy.
This is a wonderful story about a man who left behind a true legacy through his estate planning. But let’s backtrack: Woodyard left a handwritten will, and that almost prevented his wishes from being carried out.
If you want to leave a legacy through charitable giving, make sure you prepare a valid and detailed will.
What Would Have Happened If the Will Was Not Accepted?
After Woodyard passed and his handwritten will was discovered, there was a question as to whether it was valid. It had to be submitted to the court for verification.
Fortunately for Woodyard and his beneficiaries, the will was accepted in its handwritten form. However, not all handwritten wills are accepted in court; each state has different laws about what wills are acceptable. And when a person is left without a valid will, their legacy will be jeopardized.
If Tom Woodyard had lived in Florida and his will was not deemed valid, his entire estate would have gone to his niece, only because he had no children or spouse. The state will automatically give all your property and assets over to your next of kin and leave them to deal with the probate process.
To keep the distribution of your estate as simple, timely, and inexpensive as possible, you want to avoid any questions about your will’s validity in the state of Florida.
Florida’s Laws on Handwritten Wills
If you are a Florida resident and don’t already have a valid last will and testament, you will need to write one. Florida does recognize a handwritten will, but it needs to be signed by and in front of two witnesses. These witnesses do not have to be attorneys but consulting an attorney during this process will be helpful.
New Florida residents who have a valid will from a previous state of residence will not have to change their will or get it notarized in order for the contents of the will to be carried out after your death. Florida recognizes wills that were written within the laws of another state, granted that the deceased wrote the will while they were a resident of said state.
Secure Your Legacy with the Help of a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
Of course, only drafting a will and testament may not be the best way to ensure your wishes are followed after you pass. There may be more efficient and effective ways to get your assets to the people or organizations you wish, such as utilizing trusts.
Do not leave your legacy in the hands of the court. Take control of how your estate impacts future generations with proper estate planning. Reach out to an attorney for more information on how to create proper documents that will allow your legacy to live on for generations to come.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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