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            If you had chest pains would you trust the internet to diagnose your symptoms and provide proper treatment? If your car breaks down would you rely on YouTube videos and try to fix it yourself? If you were being audited by the IRS, would you use TurboTax to protect your financial interests? Of course you wouldn’t! Any reasonable person would consult a professional to assist them with these issues. So why wouldn’t you consult an attorney to assist you with your estate planning?

            Florida law regarding wills is very complicated and requires the expertise of an attorney, not some automated one-size fits all computer program, to determine what is best for you and your family. Something as basic as properly executing a will so that it is deemed valid when you die is commonly done in error. Take the case of Bitetzakis v. Bitetzakis, 264 So.3d 297 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019), wherein the simple act of signing the will was at issue. In that case, the person making the will (the “testator”) signed his first name on the will then stopped signing because his wife believed the testator was required to sign before a notary. The next day, the testator signed a document in a notary’s presence but the document was not the testator’s actual will, but rather a self-proof affidavit apparently intended to ratify the testator’s will partially signed the previous day. The testator never signed his will with his full name.

The Bitetzakis court held that the testator’s will was not executed in strict compliance with statutory signature requirements. Therefore, the will was invalid and not admitted to probate! In other words, since the testator did not sign the will in accordance with Florida law, the will that he believed would distribute his assets in the way he wanted was worthless and of no effect. Instead his assets were passed along as if he had no will.

Lesson of the story, have an attorney properly guide you through your estate planning so that your last wishes are executed the way you wanted them.

Barry Miller Law is familiar with preparing estate administration documents including wills and trusts. If you, or someone you know, has legal questions concerning these matters, contact Barry Miller Law for assistance at (407) 423-1700 or email us at [email protected]

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