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Florida Probate Statute 733.204: Probate of a Will Written in a Foreign Language

In Florida, before the property in a decedent’s estate can be passed on to the beneficiaries of his (or her) choice, the decedent’s last will and testament must be probated. Probate is the process during which the will is proved, as a Florida probate court will not admit an inauthentic will to probate. It is not usual for the will of a decedent to be written in a language other than English. While this adds a layer of complexity to probate, it is possible for a will that was written in a foreign language to be probated. To learn more about the process of probating a will that written in a foreign language, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.204- Probate of a will written in a foreign language, contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale probate attorney at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

Requirements for a Valid Will

In Florida, for a will to be valid it must meet the following requirements.

  • In writing. The will must be in writing. Oral wills are not valid in Florida.
  • Testamentary capacity. The testator must have had the legal capacity to create a will. This means that the testator must have been at least 18 years old, and he (or she) must have had the mental capacity to understand what he was doing when he created the will.
  • Proper execution. For a will to valid in Florida, it must have been signed by the testator, or signed by someone else in the presence of the testator and at the direction of the testator. The signing of the will must have also been witnessed by two people who must also sign the will.

As a skilled Fort Lauderdale probate lawyer will explain, Florida does not have a requirement that a will must be written in English.

Will Written in a Foreign Language

While Florida law does not requirement that a will must be written in English, according to Florida Statutes, section 733.204- Probate of a will written in a foreign language, in order for a will that was written in a foreign language to be probated, it must be accompanied by a true and complete English translation.

Examples

Francois, who was born in Paris and spoke French as the time that he moved to Fort Lauderdale, executed will that was written in French. There were two witnesses who observed Francois execute the will, and those witnesses also signed the will. After living in Florida for 20 years, Francois became fluent in English. However, he never executed a new will that was written in English. When Francois passed away, his personal representative, Paul, hired a company to translate Francois’ will into English. Paul then submitted the will, along with the English translation, to the local probate court. The court admitted the will to probate, and Paul moved forward with the process of settling Francois’ estate and distributing its assets.

Mateo created a will that was written in Spanish. He signed the will in the presence of one witness who also signed the will. Shortly after Mateo died in a tragic car accident, his personal representative, Samuel, submitted the will to the probate court along with an English translation. The court refused probate. Even though an English translation of the will was submitted as required by Florida Statutes, section 733.204- Probate of a will written in a foreign language, the will was not properly executed. Florida law requires two witnesses, not one.

Consequences of the Court Failing to Admit Foreign Will to Probate

If the court refuses to probate a will that was written in foreign language, then the decedent’s estate will be settled and distributed based on Florida’s rules of intestate succession. The decedent’s assets will not go to the individuals who the decedent named in the will that the court declared invalid. Instead, the assets will go to his (or her) legal heirs as defined in the statute.

Under intestacy rules, if the decedent passes away with children but no surviving spouse, the children inherit everything. If he leaves a surviving spouse but no descendants, the spouse inherits everything. If the decedent leaves a spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants, the spouse inherits everything. If the decedent leaves a spouse and descendants from him and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship, the spouse inherits 50% of the estate and the decedent’s descendants inherit the other 50%. If the decedent leaves a spouse and descendants from him and someone other than that spouse, the spouse inherits 50% of the estate, and his descendants inherit the other 50%. The statute goes onto to list which relatives would be entitled to inherit in other scenarios.

The best way to avoid a problem probating your will is to make sure that it is drafted and executed in a manner that is consistent with Florida law by working with an experienced probate attorney in Fort Lauderdale.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Probate of notarial will : § 733.205, Fla. Stat.
  2. Probate of will of resident after foreign probate : § 733.206, Fla. Stat.
  3. Establishment and probate of lost or destroyed will : § 733.207, Fla. Stat.
  4. Discovery of later will : § 733.208, Fla. Stat.
FL. Stat, Section 733.204- Probate of a Will Written in a Foreign Language

(1) No will written in a foreign language shall be admitted to probate unless it is accompanied by a true and complete English translation.

(2) No personal representative who complies in good faith with the English translation of the will as established by the court shall be liable for doing so.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have questions about probating a will that was written in a foreign language, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.204- Probate of a will written in a foreign language, it is important that you discuss your concerns with an experienced probate attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help. We have over two decades of experience representing clients in complex estate matters and understand the intricacies of the Florida Probate Code. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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