March 28

Your First Steps Regarding the Last Will and Testament

Probate proceedings can be complex, especially when it comes to locating and handling the decedent’s will. In Florida, understanding these intricacies is crucial to avoid family disputes and ensure a seamless process through the court system.

Your First Steps Regarding the Last Will and Testament

1. Locating the Will: Generally, members of the family will have some information about whether the decedent ever signed a will. Start your search for the will among the decedent’s valuable papers at their home. If it’s not there, the next most likely place to look is in a safe deposit box owned by the decedent. It may have been deposited with the clerk of court, so it’s important to check there, too.

2. Depositing the Will With Court: Under Florida law, a custodian of a last will and testament is under a duty to deposit the will with the probate court within 10 days after the decedent’s passing. Failure to deposit the will with the court within the mandated time frame may result in conflicts. Florida law also has procedures for when someone refuses to produce a decedent’s will.

3. Handling Multiple Wills: Conflicts may emerge when dealing with multiple wills and revocations. Legal provisions may not be clear, leading to potential disputes among beneficiaries. If you encounter multiple wills, be sure to seek the advice of counsel.

4. Lost or Destroyed Wills: If the original will has been lost or destroyed, a photocopy or digital copy can be used in its place. However, there are going to be additional procedures to admit that will to probate. However, “draft” wills are not “correct” copies that can be admitted to probate.

Avoiding Conflicts:

To ensure a smooth probate process and avoid conflicts:

  • Prompt Action: Promptly initiate the search for the will after the death of a loved one. Encourage transparent communication within the family regarding will contents.
  • Comprehensive Estate Planning: Clearly express your wishes and intentions in your estate planning documents. Seek legal assistance to ensure your will is legally valid and unambiguous.

If you have questions or need assistance with your estate planning to avoid potential conflicts, we're here to help. Call us today for personalized guidance tailored to your situation.

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