A will serves as a key protection for yourself and the people you love. It is a legal document that gives instructions on how to distribute a person’s assets and estate after their death. And if you live in a state like Florida, you will most likely want to know about a few requirements for a valid Florida will. Read on to find out.
Legal Requirements for a Florida Will
Each state in the US has its own rules for making valid Wills. In the state of Florida, for the last Will to be legally binding, it must meet the following procedure under Chapter 732 of the Florida Probate Code.
1. The Legal Age
First, the testator (the person writing the Will) must be at least 18 years old or, if the individual is a minor, he or she must be legally emancipated. In addition, the person should be of sound mind, which means there wouldn’t be a need to question the person’s ability to decide for themselves and make well-thought decisions.
2. It Must Be in Writing
Only written Wills are valid in a Florida probate court. However, not all written Wills are equal. There is a holographic Will: this is a handwritten Will with no present witnesses. Various states allow for such Will to stand, but Florida does not. For a written Will to be legally binding in Florida, it must have the presence of two witnesses or it will be considered void.
Because Florida accepts written Wills only, this logically means that spoken Wills (nuncupative Wills) is unacceptable. Florida also does not require any specific forms, words, phrases, or language to make the Will valid as long as it is carried out with the formalities required by law.
3. The Signing of the Will Has to Take Place in the Presence of at Least Two Witnesses
Under Florida law, all Will documents require two witnesses to be present during the execution and signing time. Both witnesses have to also sign the Will to affirm their testimony. Any competent individual can serve as a witness. However, it is not recommended for the testator to choose their relation or heir during this process. This is because someone else may find grounds to contest the Will and label it as invalid.
4. The Person Writing the Will Must Sign It
The testator must sign the written Will at the end to put it into effect. One can use any symbol, mark, letter, or initial meant to serve as a signature. If the creator of the Will or the testator can’t sign due to unavoidable circumstances, they can direct someone they trust to sign for them, but in their presence.
5. Florida Wills Can Be Amended or Revoked
You can amend a Will in Florida or completely revoke it by using a codicil. A codicil is a legal document that gives modifications or instructions to a Will. The changes are legal as long as the document is executed following the same formalities as a normal Will.
Contesting Florida Wills
A Florida Will can be challenged, but only if the timing is right. As long as the testator or individual who created the Will is living, the validity of the Will cannot be challenged or contested. However, after death, all bets are off and you can now contest the Will. There are no conditions as to who can or cannot contest, nor is there any language that can be aimed at penalizing anyone from contesting.
Florida’s last Wills and testaments are contested on several grounds, like forgery, fraud, defects in execution, undue influence, and mistakes.
Is There Any Need to Notarize Your Will in the State of Florida?
The answer is no. There is no need to notarize your Will in Florida to make it valid. However, for you to prove Will’s validity and maybe speed up the probate process, you can include a self-proving affidavit with your Will. This is a sworn statement with the signatures of the testator and the witnesses where all parties claim that the document is the testator’s last Will and testament, signed in the presence of the notary.
Do You Require an Attorney to Write Your Will in Florida?
The state of Florida does not require an attorney to draft a Will for you. Nevertheless, it would be a good idea to seek the services of a professional attorney who is well versed in the intricacies of Florida Law. A good lawyer can give you ideas on how to structure your Will and estate plan so that it favors you and your interests. It is referred to as a “last Will and testament” because it is the last thing on earth you want to be done. Your professional lawyer makes sure your wishes are accomplished.
When it comes to legal matters, you also know it could get a little messy and tricky, and multiple problems can arise from nowhere. A lawyer can help clarify your interests and make sure you are aware of how everything works under state law. Your lawyer will also be present during the reading of the Will and can clear up any misunderstandings among your beneficiaries.
Dying Without a Will in Florida
If an individual dies without a last Will and testament in Florida, that individual is considered to have died intestate. Here, Florida’s Intestacy Statute thus dictates who is going to be the beneficiary of your assets. The Florida Law has a preference for spouses, but if you die without a surviving spouse, then all your assets or estates are passed to your children in equal shares.
The Will is a crucial part of any estate plan. Another vital point to also remember is that registering your Will is an essential element for estate planning to be complete. You don’t want your family to go through the stress of heated disputes, unnecessary legal fees, and separation just because they couldn’t find your Will. Write your Will, go through it, correct any mistakes, and then register it in The U.S. Will Registry to ensure it doesn’t go missing when needed.