Thursday, May 10, 2012

Repost from Ann Shaw, having a attorney is still a good idea

The Store Bought Will Or, How to Save Now and Pay Later

By Ann Shaw, Attorney at Law
I recently received a request from an out of state client to handle his deceased uncle’s estate. Uncle had passed away in a nursing home in St. Pete, and the estate qualified for "Summary Administration" under Florida law.
The nephew sent me his uncle’s will for filing in the Probate Court. The will certainly looked official, with "Last Will and Testament" printed in large letters on top, and with the Uncle’s signature and three witness signatures, all notarized, at the bottom. The will was not prepared by an attorney, however, and that caused unnecessary expense in the end.
The problem was, the will was not "self proving." A "self proving" will is properly acknowledged by the testator and witnesses before an officer authorized to administer oaths (usually a notary public). A self-proving will may be admitted to probate without testimony of the attesting witnesses. Although a notary signed and stamped the will signatures, the required language acknowledging that the testator had declared that he was signing his will, and that the witnesses signed in the testator’s presence, was missing.
When a will is not self-proving, testimony from a witness to the will is required. That meant that I had to hunt down one of the witnesses and bring them before a circuit court judge, or court-appointed commissioner, or clerk or deputy clerk of the circuit court. The expense involved in doing this more than offset the "bargain" that Uncle got by having a non-attorney (of course the preparer didn’t sign their name) prepare his will, and added to the time required to probate the estate. Fortunately, the witnesses were still in the area. If none of the witnesses were available, further procedures would have been required.
The moral of the story is, have your estate plan prepared by an attorney. Saving a few dollars now may mean that your heirs have to spend many more dollars later.


  1. Lesson learned. Leave the legal process to a lawyer. They’ve spent years studying the law just for this purpose. In this situation, the acquisition of the inherited property would have been more prompt given that a lawyer had prepared, mediated, and signed over the documents.

    Mike Clark

    1. I totally agree with you Mike. It's easier to resolve the case or compensation claim if you let a professional lawyer handle it for you. Plus, you'll know that you’re on the right track because the process is completely legal. If the case is confidential, you could also ask for protection should you need to.

  2. I have to agree with Mike. Hiring a legal expert does help you navigate through the whole process faster and easier. In fact, some insurance companies require you to work with a real estate attorney to make certain that everything is in order and will go smoothly. Hiring one is definitely a good idea.

  3. I agree with both Mike and Lance. Hiring an attorney will help ensure that you’re filing under the correct chapter. Also, that can help you retain as many assets as possible. What’s even better about that is the lawyers will take care of all the legal actions regarding your concerns, thus reducing the hassle and making the official process smoother.

  4. “Saving a few dollars now may mean that your heirs have to spend many more dollars later.”--- Indeed. It’s better that you spend money for a lawyer to help you resolve your issues than trying to work it out between yourselves. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will prevent an even longer legal battle between your heirs should they question the legitimacy of the will.

  5. When 5th District State Rep. Dr. Patricia Watkins last visited the community room* adjacent to the 1st Ward office, marriage certificate authentication

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