Preparing A Will In Florida: 5 Things To Know
You aren’t alone if you don’t have a will or don’t think you need one. According to one recent study, about 60% of Americans don’t have a will. Most people without a will believe they don’t have an “estate” to plan for or have simply put off planning for end-of-life issues. Admittedly, it is hard for anybody to think about death and what happens afterward. It is important to do so, however, for the sake of yourself and your family.
When approaching the subject of wills, you may have certain basic questions:
- Do I Need a Will?
In most cases, yes. Items, such as your home and any personal property contained within it, can be transferred through a valid will. Even if you own few assets or have trust and retirement accounts that can be managed outside of a will, establishing a will ensures that those dispositions occur according to your wishes if any problems arise. Additionally, if you have minor children, you may wish to elect guardians to look after them if they lose both parents.
- What are Florida’s Requirements for a Valid Will?
Florida requirements for a basic will include:
- The will must be in writing. Florida law does not recognize oral wills, and will only accept a handwritten (“holographic”) will if it meets all witness and signature requirements of a typewritten will. A properly typed will can meet this requirement.
- The person signing the will – the “testator” – must sign the will at the end of the document. If the testator cannot physically sign the will, the testator can direct another person to sign on the testator’s behalf.
- The signing must have at least two witnesses. These witnesses must sign the document as well, in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other.
- The testator must be 18 years old or an emancipated minor to make a valid will. The testator must also be of sound mind when the will is made. Being of sound mind means knowing what is included in your estate and understanding that you are making a will that disposes of your real and personal property.
- How Do I Choose an Executor for my Will?
The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes expressed in your will. This person is often a family member or some other trusted individual that is responsible and detail-oriented. Sometimes this can also be your attorney or accountant. Whomever you select for this role, you want them to be ready and available when the time comes to administer your estate. Ideally, they also reside in or near the same community where your home and assets are located.
- Can I Change or Update my Will Later?
Yes. A will can be amended during one’s lifetime through what is called a “codicil”. This a short legal document that amends or changes certain provisions in your will. Codicils are frequently used as they allow certain changes without the need to re-draft an entire will.
For example, you may wish to add or remove beneficiaries or add property that’s been acquired since you first drafted the will. These can also be used to revoke certain provisions, or name a new executor.
A valid codicil in Florida must meet the same requirements as the will itself. That is, it must be in writing, signed by the testator and completed with 2 witnesses.
- Do I Need a Lawyer to Create a Will?
While it is tempting to create your own will from scratch or use a “fill in the blanks” will from an online vendor, a “do it yourself” approach can create problems down the road. Florida has strict rules pertaining to wills, and even a small mistake can lead to your will being contested or even invalidated.
Contact the Tampa Estate Planning Attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group To Discuss Your Will Preparation Options
A self-made or generic will is unlikely to meet all your needs and is more likely to be challenged or declared invalid. Instead, get custom help from an experienced and thoughtful estate planning attorney who can draft a valid will that meets your specific needs. At Strategic Counsel Law Group, our dedicated and compassionate Tampa wills attorneys take the time to listen to your concerns and advise you on how best to put your will and estate plan together. Call our attorneys at 813-286-1700 or schedule a consultation online today to get started on this vital and rewarding process.