Written by Jeffrey Skatoff • October 10th, 2011
In a dramatic change from previous law, the Florida Legislature has enacted Florida Statute section 732.615 to allow the reformation of a will. Previously under Florida probate law, a trust could be reformed for a mistake of fact or law, but a will could not. The new statute allowing the modification of wills is effective as of July 1, 2011 and reads as follows:
732.615 Reformation to correct mistakes.—Upon application of any interested person, the court may reform the terms of a will, even if unambiguous, to conform the terms to the testator's intent if it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that both the accomplishment of the testator's intent and the terms of the will were affected by a mistake of fact or law, whether in expression or inducement. In determining the testator's original intent, the court may consider evidence relevant to the testator's intent even though the evidence contradicts an apparent plain meaning of the will.
Previously, if a will was ambiguous, a Florida court could allow a reformation since the primary intent was to ascertain the intent of the testator. However, in some circumstances a mistake did not involve ambiguity, but instead involved a mistake of fact or law. One such example is where a bequest was for $10,000 instead of $100,000. In such cases, courts were previously barred from introducing evidence to determine the true intent of the testator, even if it was obvious what the testator’s true intent was from evidence other than the will.
New Florida Statute section 732.615 will give support for beneficiaries who were deprived of an inheritance or part of an inheritance under a will when it was clear from other evidence that the decedent’s intent was not properly reflected in the will. If you have any questions, or we can help you with an estate planning or probate matter, please contact Jeffrey Skatoff at (561) 842-4868.