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Probating a Copy of a Lost Will

The Washington Post reports that the Spanish city of La Coruna is trying to track down the person who lost a lottery ticket worth $6.3 million. Anyone attempting to claim the money will need to satisfy authorities that he or she is the true owner of the lost ticket, which might not be an easy task. 

Losing a document can be costly, though few as costly as a lost lottery ticket.  For example, even though losing a will can be problematic, a solution to this predicament is available. When probating a decedent's estate, you need to file the original will together with any amendments to it (known as codicils) with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Probate Division. Fortunately, there is a procedure set forth by law for validating the terms of a lost will.

Statutory Procedure

Under Florida's Probate Code, someone reasonably expected to be affected by the outcome of the proceedings (“interested person”), such as a beneficiary or a personal representative, can apply to the probate court to establish the terms of a lost will. However, this requires the testimony of two "disinterested witnesses" ― meaning individuals with no stake in the proceedings. 

Note that if a "correct copy" of the will is provided to the court, only one “disinterested witness" needs to testify. A "correct copy" of a will can be:

  • a photocopy
  • a carbon copy
  • a copy saved on a computer 

However, if distribution of the estate would be the same under the will as under the intestacy rules, then there may be no reason to undergo this potentially time-consuming and costly process. 

Prevention is always better than the cure. Keep your original will in a safe place, such as your attorney's office, a bank safety deposit box or a home safe and tell your family members where it is.  For assistance with probating an estate, including establishing the terms of a lost will, speak to an experienced Florida probate lawyer.

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