Effective Solutions For Estate And Trust Disputes

Validity of Foreign Wills in Florida

On Behalf of | May 11, 2023 | Will Disputes

Are Wills Executed in Another State or Country Valid in Florida?

It Depends.

What happens when an individual makes a will in another state or country and then passes away in Florida or has property that needs to be disposed through a Florida probate proceeding? An experienced Florida probate lawyer can help you figure out the answer.

A. Florida Generally Recognizes Wills Validly Executed in Other States and Countries

Section 732.502, Florida Statutes, lists the execution requirements for a valid will in Florida. It also explains when a will executed in another state or country will be recognized by Florida courts. Here is what the statute says:

Any will, other than a holographic or nuncupative will, executed by a nonresident of Florida, either before or after this law takes effect, is valid as a will in this state if valid under the laws of the state or country where the will was executed.

See Fla. Stat. § 732.502(2). The full statute can be found here.

In other words, to determine whether a foreign will is valid in Florida, you need to look at the law of the other state or country. If the will was properly executed in accordance with the laws of the other state or country, then it is likely – but not always – valid in Florida.

B. Not All Wills Are Recognized, Even If Valid in the Foreign Jurisdiction

As the statute makes clear, Florida does not recognize all wills that are validly executed in a foreign jurisdiction. For example, holographic and nuncupative are not valid in Florida, notwithstanding that they may be valid in the foreign jurisdiction. The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently decided the case of Caveglia v. Heinen, 4D21-3624, March 8, 2023, that illustrates this point.

In Caveglia, the decedent executed two wills while residing in Louisiana. The first will was executed in 2014 with traditional formalities – i.e., signed by the testator and two witnesses. The second will executed in 2015 was a “holographic” will – i.e., a handwritten will that is signed by the testator but lacks witnesses. The testator then moved to Florida and passed away.

The proponents of the 2015 holographic will contended that it operated to revoke the 2014 will because holographic wills are valid under Louisiana law. The trial court disagreed. It held that Florida would not recognize the 2015 holographic will –notwithstanding that it may have been valid under Louisiana law – because section 732.502(2) expressly states that holographic wills are not valid in Florida.

If you are interested, the Caveglia opinion can be found here for reference.

C. Things Can Get Complicated!

There are many nuances that can impact whether the Florida courts will recognize a foreign will.

For example, a will that disposes of Florida real property is generally governed by Florida law, regardless of where the will is executed. This is a rather common situation in Florida, as residents of other states, such as New York and New Jersey, also own Florida real property.

And what happens when a foreign will is challenged based on lack of capacity or undue influence? Do the laws of Florida or the foreign jurisdiction control? Again, an experienced Florida probate lawyer can help you figure out the answer.

D. Contact Forgione Law, P.A., for Answers to Your Questions

If you need help with a Florida probate that involves a will executed in another state or country, contact Forgione Law, P.A., today to get answers to your questions and see how we can assist.

Forgione Law, P.A., handles probate and trust litigation throughout the state of Florida.