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Generally, the primary consideration in construing a will is the intent of the testator. However, when testamentary intent is contained in a will, it can only be effectuated if the will has been validly executed in strict compliance with § 732.502, Fla. Stat. Section 732.502(1)(a) dictates that in order to properly execute a will, the testator "must sign the will at the end" or else the testator's name must be subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
The decedent, George Bitetzakis, passed away in January 2017. His grandson was appointed personal representative and petitioned for the administration of a will dated in September 2013. The decedent's daughter, Alice Bitetzakis, responded to the petition, alleging inter alia that the will had not been executed in compliance with the statutory formalities set forth in section 732.502. Specifically, Alice Bitetzakis alleged that the decedent did not sign the purported will within the meaning of the statute. The court admitted the will to probate. On appeal, Alice Bitetzakis argued that the decedent's will failed to conform to the requirements of section 732.502 because the decedent did not sign at the end of the will and the decedent's later signing of the self-proof affidavit was insufficient to rectify his incomplete signature.
Did the decedent’s will fail to conform to the requirements of section 732.502, thereby rendering the will’s admission into probate an error?
The court held that the probate court erred in admitting an unsigned will to probate, § 732.502, Fla. Stat. (2013), because the decedent, who only signed his first name, signed something less than his full customary signature, and the decedent's later signing of the self-proof affidavit was insufficient to rectify his incomplete signature. According to the court, the evidence did not establish that the decedent signed at the end of the will or directed another to subscribe his name in his stead.