A lost Florida Will is a will that was lost or destroyed without the decedent’s knowledge or consent and without his or her intent to revoke. The original Florida Will of a testator can be revoked in a number of ways but the individual must have the intent to revoke the will. When the original will of the decedent cannot be located after her death, it is presumed that the will was destroyed with the intent to revoke it. Overcoming this presumption in Florida requires the proponent of a lost will to carry the burden of introducing competent and substantial evidence.
In the recent case Brennan v. Estate of Brennan, the issue addressed by the 5th District Court of Appeals was whether affidavits alone are enough to prove a lost will or whether live witness testimony is required. Relying on a similar issue addressed by the Florida Supreme Court and the 3rd DCA, the 5th DCA determined that in order for a lost will to be admitted to probate Fla. Stat. § 733.207 requires testimony of one disinterested witness and a “correct copy” of the will, or testimony from two disinterested witnesses. Affidavits merely swearing the witnesses saw the decedent execute the lost will and that witness signed the will are insufficient to fulfill this requirement.
From this decision it is apparent that a draft of the will or some evidence be provided for admission to the probate court and depending on whether a “correct copy” of the will is offered, the testimony of one or two disinterested witnesses. Florida Probate issues are anything but simple so if you feel the need for assistance don’t hesitate to contact a Florida Probate lawyer or Florida Estate Planning Lawyer. If you are considering a Florida Will modification, it may be wise to do a full disclosure to all beneficiaries and those close to you because it will provide peace knowing your final wishes have been acknowledged.