Are Verbal Promises To Create A Will Enforceable In Court?
It is not uncommon for people to help older people, or people who are sick and infirm, often on the promise that they will receive something from the other person’s estate documents, like their will or from a trust. But when that person passes on, if that promise is not fulfilled, do you have any recourse? What do you do when you were told you would get something from a will or trust, and then it turns out you were left with nothing?
Promise to Will
This is called a promise to will, or a promise to leave something in a will. And if you were the one who was promised something and received nothing, you may feel betrayed. But you may also not have legal grounds to enforce the promise that was made to you by the deceased before he or she passed away.
Of course, if you are the family of the deceased, and you do not think the person promised something from the will should get anything, this may work in your favor.
Wills Require Formalities
The problem with enforcing verbal promises to will or to leave something to you in a will, is that wills have specified procedures that must be followed for the will to be valid and enforceable. Wills need to be witnessed and signed. A verbal will is not enforceable, and that means that by extension, a verbal promise to include someone in a will or leave something to someone in a will, is not enforceable.
This also includes promises to amend, alter, or revoke existing wills.
As you can likely imagine, from a policy standpoint, courts are hesitant to enforce wills, because the person making the promise is no longer alive. While death doesn’t automatically invalidate every kind of contract, with a will, the formalities required are written into Florida law, and courts will insist on those formalities.
There are some ways around this requirement that wills be in writing, but they aren’t commonly applicable.
For example, if someone is promised something from a will, and the person promised (the promisee) lives in a state where the verbal promise would be enforceable, that person may have an ability to contest the estate in Florida probate court and enforce the verbal promise.
Note that the restriction on verbal modification or creation of wills only applies as between the deceased and the person promised. Verbal promises may be enforceable as between two people who stand to inherit from the will.
So, for example, if you and a friend agree to split the proceeds that you are receiving from a will, that could be enforceable, as that is not a contract to make, alter, or amend an estate document.
We can help you with your real estate or probate questions. Contact the Tampa real estate lawyers at the Gilbert Garcia Group, P.A. today.