What to do with a Decedent’s original last will?
When someone dies in Florida, their original last will is to be deposited – or filed – in the probate court, in the county where that person resided. The parameters for this are set forth in Florida Statute 732.901 (which states, in relevant part):
732.901 Production of wills.—
- The custodian of a will must deposit the will with the clerk of the court having venue of the estate of the decedent within 10 days after receiving information that the testator is dead. The custodian must supply the testator’s date of death or the last four digits of the testator’s social security number to the clerk upon deposit.
- Upon petition and notice, the custodian of any will may be compelled to produce and deposit the will. All costs, damages, and a reasonable attorney’s fee shall be adjudged to petitioner against the delinquent custodian if the court finds that the custodian had no just or reasonable cause for failing to deposit the will.
- An original will submitted to the clerk with a petition or other pleading is deemed to have been deposited with the clerk.
- Upon receipt, the clerk shall retain and preserve the original will in its original form for at least 20 years. If the probate of a will is initiated, the original will may be maintained by the clerk with the other pleadings during the pendency of the proceedings, but the will must at all times be retained in its original form for the remainder of the 20-year period whether or not the will is admitted to probate or the proceedings are terminated. Transforming and storing a will on film, microfilm, magnetic, electronic, optical, or other substitute media or recording a will onto an electronic recordkeeping system, whether or not in accordance with the standards adopted by the Supreme Court of Florida, or permanently recording a will does not eliminate the requirement to preserve the original will.
What does this mean? Whomever has the original will must deposit it in the court within 10 days of learning of that person’s death and there are penalties associated with any failure to deposit the will in that timely fashion.
This is important, whether the law firm who drafted or presided over the signing of the will retained the original, or whether the decedent him or herself retained that original will after it was signed.
If you do not have the decedent’s original will but are looking for it, you might contact the lawyer who drafted the last will, as it may have been retained in their office.
If you are in possession of an original will of a loved one, you should contact your trusted probate lawyer about properly depositing that will with the court.