Hang on to your hats people, Aretha Franklin had THREE Wills! If you recall, I recently wrote an especially titillating article about how the Queen of Soul passed away intestate, without a will or trust. Come to find out that she had drafted three handwritten wills, recently discovered in her Michigan home. And because we love to name things, there’s a word for that. A “holographic” will is a last will and testament that has been entirely handwritten and signed by the testator.
All three of Franklin’s wills were handwritten, difficult to read and non-compliant with Michigan law. However, Michigan gives great weight to the wishes of a decedent. In fact, last year, Michigan Courts held that a man’s final written words stored on a phone counted as a valid will.
Despite the fact that Franklin’s newly discovered wills look like rough drafts and contain crossed out words, arrows and writings in the margins, if there is clear and convincing evidence of intention, Michigan will hold that the wills are perfectly valid documents. The Michigan court wants to do everything in its power to fulfill the wishes of the person who passed away. Awwwww, that’s so nice of Michigan.
Had Aretha been a Florida resident, there is NO WAY her wills would be admissible. A holographic will is always invalid in Florida, unless it is properly executed. Essentially, we don’t have this animal called a “holographic will” in the Sunshine State. In Florida, in order for a will to be valid, section 732.502 of the Florida statutes govern. Florida requires a will to be signed (or acknowledged) at the end by the testator in the presence of two witnesses and in the presence of each other when signing. If there are two witnesses, but each sign separately, and do not see each other and the testator sign, the will is invalid in Florida.
Michigan is kinder than Florida.