Essay: Wills Can Be Invalidated

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¶ … WILLS can be invalidated using Florida case law.

Invalidating a WILL using Florida Law

The primary objective of this analysis is to establish the ways of invalidating wills, or trust documents as outlined by the Florida case law. Although it may seem that the testator has the final say, even after death, the law may revoke the will if it establishes unfair play. This comes in, for instance, when a parent dies, but on the will, their children do not inherit anything; however, the sister or brother to the parent obtains legal rights for all the properties left by the deceased. This paper will further provide some cases, factual, concerning the subject matter to accomplish the purpose of the assignment.

Issue and Conclusion

The contesting of a will is a legal process, which opts to seek justice. A typical example where this process is viable is when, a wealthy, relative dies, but after reading of the will and their last testament, an individual realizes they do not have a right to any of their properties. If the person stood to inherit something from a will, but they did not, the law allows the individual to challenge the will in court as the first step to invalidating the will. Additionally, the court may invalidate a will for numerous reasons, although some of, which are hard to prove; therefore, may make the legal challenge in probate a complicated process.

Notably, before anything, the individual may need to visit the probate court and check the paperwork, but most importantly, the individual must give compelling reasons as to why the court should invalidate the will. As outlined by the Florida case law, A Florida Will Contest is an adversary proceeding in reference to the Florida Probate Rule 5.025. Further, whether there is a formal admission of the Will to the probate has the capacity to establish, which or the proper pleadings to file. Then, relevant proceedings, or there is a Will Contest in the probate court. However, the Florida Law has enacted legislation that prohibits anyone from contesting a will before there is confirmation of death of the testator.

As per the law, in many cases, beneficiaries, heirs, and other parties will not know the substance of a the Last Will and Testament of their loved one's until after their death, when there is a revelation of the document as part of the probate procedure. The Florida Law further provides deadlines for will contests. The law outlines that after the claimant has submitted their claims and received by the probate court, the claimant has ninety days only to consider their options, gather the appropriate supporting documentation, hire a lawyer, and file a formal suit contesting the Will. However, if there is a reception of a Formal Notice Administration, the period is altered to twenty (20) days.

Grounds for Florida Will Contest

Improper Execution

In assessing the validity of a will, the Florida law will seek to verify whether there was proper execution of the Will. Nevertheless, it is much simpler and less costly to contest for will invalidation on technical base, as compared to bases of undue influence or lack of capacity. In the process of establishing the validity of the Will or involved testamentary documents it is true, the statute controls the requirements for execution and qualification. In Florida, for one to make a valid Will, requires the testator (individual making the Will) to be sane and at least 18 years of age. If the testator had the qualifications to make the will, there is a need for document evaluation to establish whether execution followed due process outlined in Fla.Stat.732.502, which include:

The will must be in written form

The individual making the will (testator or another individual as per the testator's advice) must sign the will

The testator must acknowledge the signing (advice directing another individual to sign) in the presence of two witnesses

The witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and themselves (very important factor)

In most cases, the Florida courts have invalidated a Will when the two witnesses testified that they did not sign in the presence of each other. The fact that the law went to comment that "in the presence of each other including that of the testator" does not literary mean in the physical state or near each other. Price v. Abate, 9 So.3d 37(Fla. 5th DCA 2009). A typical example is, if one of the witnesses was in the testator's living room watching television, while the testator was in the dining room signing the Will, this is an example of invalid execution, and the court can invalidate the Will. This suggests that the testimony of eyewitness concerning the execution of the Will has great weight in the matter.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

One of the qualifications for an individual to make a Will is that of being in "sound mind." In the year 1953, the Florida Supreme Court suggested that "sound mind" means that the testator was in the capacity to understand the nature of their property, the relation one had with those to inherit and the practical influence of the Will. In reference, in re Willmott's Estate, 66 So.2d 465. Additionally, the Florida legislation has held that it is possible for a lunatic to make a will, in a lucid interval. For instance, in the case of Murrey v. Barnet National bank of Jacksonville, 74 So.2d 647. In addition, the law comments that aspects such as old age, physical feelings, memory lapses or shifting judgments do not qualify as lack of testamentary capacity, this was evident in the case of in re Estate of Dunson, 141 So.2d 601.

This aspect provides a rough arena for the person challenging the will to prove that the testator lacked testamentary capacity. However, the law allows the claimant to provide evidence showing the decedent's mental status before and after they have signed the Will. Compelling evidence that the mental disability was permanent will create that the situation continued, even after signing the Will. Nevertheless, the claimant will have an easy time if one can prove that the testator had some mental infirmities, especially those related with old age such as dementia, which is chronic and points toward continuous disability. Insane delusion is another form of testamentary incapacity. It refers to a fixed false belief, which lacks reality foundation, and this was evident in the case of Hooper v. Stokes, 145 So. 855.

The most referred to insane delusion case in Florida was Miami Rescue Mission, Inc. v. Roberts So.2d. In the case, the decedent executed a new will in the year 2005 while in hospital in severe pain and under the influence of a strong medication. The decedent did not make it and passed way the following day; however, the new will disinherited the caretaker and left the property to numerous charities. The claimants argued that the testator lacked testamentary capacity when she signed the Will, and in support, the physicians commented that the decedent was under strong medication, and further suggested the medication had altered the decedent's personality. Although the decedent had suggested that the claimant had abandoned her and even killed her dog, this contradicted the witnesses' testimony. Therefore, the court invalidated the will on grounds of insane delusion.

Undue influence

This aspect suggests that the testator was under the influence of persuasion, pressure and outside influences. Therefore, this simply means that the testator did not act voluntarily, but as per instructed or forced by another individual or individuals, when executing their Last Will. As outlined in the Florida law, the claimant must establish the presumption of undue influence, which is possible to show if the claimant shows that the undue influence;

Was a substantial beneficiary as outlined by the Will

Had a confidential relationship with the decedent

Was active in procuring the Will

Each of the given aspects has a particular body, which offers an interpretation of what it means. The first two aspects are easy to establish as compared to the third one. In the case of the "active procurement" is evident in Re Estate of Carpenter, 253 So.2d. In the case, the Florida law provided seven non-exclusive aspects to help the courts to determine whether there was active procurement. Overall, although the third aspect shows some complications in proving if the claimant successfully convinces the court that there should be a presumption of undue influence; the challenge shifts to the person attempting to admit that the Will had lacked any form of influence.

Analysis of Florida Will Cases

Dinkins v. Dinkins In the case, the surviving spouse felt it was unlawful for her to pay the penalty for taking her elective share. This is because she was to forfeit $5 million conditional gift. However, during the trial, there was working of the reward-based clause, and the court rejected the spouse argument, suggesting that the provision did not penalize her owing to the elective share. Similarly, under a clause offering… [END OF PREVIEW]

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