Singer Aretha Franklin was highly respected in Florida for her chart-topping hits and her philanthropic work. After passing away in 2018, her feuding heirs said she died intestate. According to The New York Times, however, one of her attorneys claims he warned her to compose a will, and it was recently discovered that the singer may have created not one, but several handwritten wills. One of Franklin’s alleged wills was believed to have been found stuffed underneath some couch cushions at her Detroit home. After the documents were found, a representative of Franklin’s estate submitted the scribbled wills to the probate court to verify their validity.
How might a situation such as this play out in the Sunshine State? Under Florida’s probate code, wills or codicils are not required to be typed long before the testator’s death because they’re allowed to be changed. A handwritten will with additional provisions clearly showing a testator’s intentions of dividing up his or her property may be presented for probate regardless of when it was written. Having a date, however, written in the deceased’s own penmanship might show that its purpose is genuine.
A probate court may determine that a handwritten will is valid by first verifying that it was actually inscribed by the deceased. If there are any other documents connected to the will, they may also be submitted. An example would be a will that had been previously typed and then attached to a newer will which had been written on a separate piece of paper in the deceased’s own words. If the testator’s signature is clear and noticeable on the handwritten will and it also includes the signatures of two witnesses, it may be considered legally valid in Florida.