Everything comes in Threes

Do you seem to find that things happen in “three’s”?  That seems to be the case in our office. The most recent instance involved our efforts to initiate probate proceedings for three separate estates. Florida law requires some form of proof that a Will was properly executed. The most common way to offer that proof is by signing an affidavit in the presence of a notary that the Will was executed by the testator and the witnesses.  If you have do not this type of affidavit, the statutes require one of the witnesses to testify before the clerk of court, or if they can’t be readily located, the nominated personal representative or disinterested person could provide that testimony.

Interestingly, in three separate and unrelated probate cases, each of the Wills had self proving affidavits that were signed correctly.  Specifically, the notary block was not complete.  In each case, the notary signed the affidavit that the testator and witnesses acknowledged signing the Will in his or her presence.

So far so good, but more is required when a document is executed in the presence of a notary. The notary must indicate whether those individuals are personally known to him or her, or indicate what type of identification was produced so that the notary can confirm who signature was being notarized.  Sadly, in these instances, the notary failed to indicate whether these persons were known to him or her, or produced any identification.

So what’s the consequence of this error?  In one case, we tracked down a local witness, who was able to offer testimony before the court. In other case, the witnesses were out-of-state, which means that additional pleadings were necessary to get the Will admitted to probate. In the third case, the nominated personal representative provided the testimony.  In all cases, a considerable delay resulted in the administration of the estates.

We suggest the next time you review your estate plan that you also make sure that it was executed and notarized properly.  If you’re not sure what that means, give us a call for a complementary review of your plan.