Beware Of The Use Of Preprinted Wills!
The Florida Supreme Court held in Aldrich v. Basile, 2014 WL 1240073, that, absent a residuary clause or proper devise of an asset, any after acquired property of a decedent shall pass according to Florida’s intestacy laws.
Ms. Aldrich drafted her will using an “E-Z Legal Form” and devised her home, car and various accounts to her sister, if she survived Ms. Aldrich, and, if not, then to her brother.Ms. Aldrich’s sister predeceased her and devised her assets to Ms. Aldrich.Ms. Aldrich died a few years later never adding language to her will regarding the newly acquired assets.
At trial, Ms. Aldrich’s brother was the sole beneficiary and Personal Representative (“PR”) under her will.Her nieces from a deceased brother argued that because the will neither had a residuary clause nor a devise of the after acquired property, the property should pass intestate.The PR argued that the intent of Ms. Aldrich was to die testate and Florida Statute §732.6005(2) provides that “…a will shall be construed to pass all property owned at death, including property acquired after the will is executed.”The trial court granted summary judgment for the PR.The First District Court reversed and held that §732.6005(2) was inapplicable and §732.6005(1) which states “…intent of the testator as expressed in the will controls the legal effect of the testator’s dispositions” was applicable.
The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the First District Court’s ruling and provided that “Ms. Aldrich had several years to deal with the after acquired assets yet chose not to do so.The Court further emphasized that intent is gleaned from the four corners of the will unless ambiguous or contradictory language was used.Because Ms. Aldrich’s will was concise, the Court refused to speculate into Ms. Aldrich’s intentions to not include this after acquired property in her will.
Saving money on using preprinted legal forms winds up costing your clients more in probate litigation costs and fees.