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Florida Courts Reject Purported Second “Lost” Will


Back in 2022, we discussed a Florida probate case involving a woman (the petitioner) who claimed she had found a lost will of her late step-grandfather (the decedent). The probate court determined the document presented–which was signed but not witnessed–was invalid and the decedent had, in fact, died leaving no will. The Florida Third District Court of Appeal subsequently rejected the petitioner’s attempt to appeal that decision because she missed the filing deadline.

“Law of the Case” Prevents Submitting the Same Will to the Probate Court Over and Over Again

Undeterred, the petitioner opted to continue the litigation. This time she filed a motion in the probate court seeking to vacate the original finding of no will because there was “new evidence” proving the purported lost will had in fact been witnessed and notarized. More precisely, the petitioner said she found a “second lost will” that met those requirements.

But this second so-called lost will was apparently the same exact document as the first so-called lost will. Not surprisingly, the probate court refused to admit the new document as a valid will. The petitioner then tried a third time, re-filing the second so-called lost will with the signature and notarization provisions removed. She also sought to conduct depositions of two persons she claimed had witnessed the decedent’s signature on the second so-called will.

At this point, the personal representative of the decedent’s probate estate asked the court to put a stop to the petitioner’s efforts, citing the Third District’s 2022 decision. The probate court agreed with the estate. It issued a protective order effectively barring the petitioner from continuing to try and get any so-called will admitted to probate.

Again, the petitioner appealed to the Third District. And again, the Third District rejected her arguments. In a January 2024 opinion, the Court noted that its prior holding did not necessarily “preclude a proponent of a lost will” from seeking to establish the validity of a different will. Under Florida law, any interested person may offer a will for probate. And the probate court has the authority to admit such a will until the estate itself is closed.

Here, the estate is still open. But the problem, the Third District said, was that the petitioner did not offer a new will for probate. She simply kept re-filing the same so-called will that the probate court rejected in the first place. The probate court issued a final order declining to admit that will. And since the petitioner failed to timely appeal that original decision, the Third District lacked jurisdiction to disturb that final order. So under the “law of the case,” the probate court’s actions here were proper.

Contact a Pompano Beach Estate Litigation Attorney Today

If you are involved in a dispute involving an estate with no will, or a purportedly lost will that may have been found, it is important to seek out legal advice and representation from a qualified Pompano Beach trust and estate litigation attorney. Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today at 954-491-7099 to schedule a consultation.



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