I have received several questions about how one processes or obtains a copy of a will, especially when there are doubts as to its validity.   Here is a recent one.

Question:  My dad passed away here in Florida where he lived, but someone coming in for the funeral from Texas says he has my dad’s will in a safe deposit box, and that he will tell everyone what they will get when he gets here.  Is that legal?  Is there some kind of process we need to go through to make sure that’s what my dad wanted? 

Answer:  There is a formal process for this under Florida law.  This is known as Probate.  Your father must have created a valid Will.  Otherwise, his estate will pass according to state law.  Your father’s friend from Texas should file the Will with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where your father lived.  The Texan can show you the Will if he wants, but that is not required.  If he doesn’t show you the Will, you can obtain a copy of it from the court after it is filed.  A Judge will rule on the validity of the Will, and you can contest it under certain circumstances.  If the person with possession of the Will does not file it within a reasonable amount of time (10 days), you can file an action with the court requiring him to do so and have him pay your attorney’s fees and costs as well.  You can also have a Florida attorney send him a letter demanding that he comply with the law before filing in court.  Please feel free to contact me for assistance.

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