A Last Will and Testament can be used for a number of important things. Most people are aware that a will can instruct who you will leave your property to after you pass away and who will be in charge of administering your estate. A will can do much more, though. A will allows you to name a guardian to care for your minor children. It also allows you to name a trustee who will manage any property you leave to children or incapacitated persons. It can provide funeral, burial, and cremation instructions. It can even create a trust that can continue for a few years or for generations.
Should you pass away without a will, your property will pass according to the state intestacy laws. In Florida, like most states, the intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives starting with your spouse or children, if you have them. If you do not have any surviving close relatives, the intestacy law moves down a list of increasingly distant relatives who will inherit your property. If no such relatives exist, the property will likely go to the State.
How to Create a Valid Will in Florida
In Florida, you must be at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor of sound mind in order to create a valid will. A sound mind means that you have the capacity to make a will. You are capable of making decisions and are aware of the consequences of the decisions you are making. In order for a will to be valid in Florida, certain formalities must be observed. For instance, you, the “testator,” must sign your will or direct another person to sign your will in your presence. There must also be two competent witnesses present when you sign your will. The witnesses are required to sign the will in your presence and in the presence of each other.
All wills in Florida must be in writing and witnessed to be valid. A valid will does not necessarily need to be notarized. However, a notarized will in Florida makes it “self-proving.” This means that the probate court is able to accept the validity of the will without the sworn testimony of the witnesses who signed it. Locating witnesses (assuming they are still living) and getting them to the courthouse to swear to the circumstances of its signing can cause much delay in the probate process, so a self-proving will is a substantial benefit.
You can change or revoke your will at any time. In order to revoke your will, you can destroy the original with the intent to revoke it. You also have the option of directing someone else to destroy it in front of you. You can also revoke a will by making a new valid will. If you only need to make a minor change to your will, you can add an amendment to it referred to as a “codicil” that is executed by observing the same formalities required of making the original will.
Estate Planning Attorney
Unfortunately, many people create wills but fail to observe the required legal formalities. This risks the invalidation of a will. At Verras Law, we create wills that reflect your wishes and make sure that all requirements are met so that those wishes are honored in probate court. Contact Verras Law today.