Basic Legal Requirements of a Florida Last Will and Testament
If someone dies without a will in Florida, it’s considered to be “intestate,” and the state laws will determine how the estate will be distributed. The potential beneficiaries will have no legal standing to dispute the court’s distribution of the estate pursuant to the applicable intestate laws.
Creating a Last Will and Testament is one of the most important documents you can draft. However, it must meet Florida legal requirements in order for it to be valid. Working with a West Palm Beach estate planning and probate lawyer is highly recommended. This ensures your will is valid under Florida law and your wishes will be carried out when you pass.
Legal Requirements for Drafting a Will in Florida
Anyone who is 18 and older, or is an emancipated minor, and is of sound mind has the legal capacity to draft a will. “Sound mind” is typically used to refer to someone who has not been declared incompetent in any prior legal proceeding.
You must follow several additional requirements in order to ensure your will is valid. The first is that the will must always be in writing. Next, you must sign the will at the end, where you are typically known as the “testator.” Florida law requires you to sign the will in front of two witnesses. In addition, those witnesses must also sign the will. While it is legal to have witnesses who have an interest in the will, it’s a better idea to use witnesses who have no legal interest.
It’s not a legal requirement in the state to have the will notarized, but it’s certainly a recommended practice. Any will that is executed according to these requirements will be deemed “self-proving.” It can be done when the will is executed or at a later date.
Wills and Probate
If the will is not challenged and it is self-proven, the probate can be a fairly simple procedure. Witnesses are not required to testify in court because the court will accept a self-proven will as being authentic.
A common question is whether you name your personal representative in the will itself. Yes, you will need to name one, so it’s best to include the name in your will which will ensure your wishes are honored. It’s recommended to have a secondary personal representative in the event the first one cannot serve. This is an important position, as the representative is the one who is administering your estate. Florida law does allow the estate to pay personal representatives some compensation for their services.
Retaining a Florida Will and Probate Attorney
One of the best ways to verify your will is drafted correctly and doesn’t violate any local laws is to retain a Florida estate planning attorney. At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. we have experience in estate planning matters, including drafting wills, setting up trusts and health directives, and more. In the event your loved one passed away without a will, we can also help probate an intestate estate. We will investigate to uncover all possible legal heirs and determine assets and liabilities. We have access to a variety of experts, like forensic accountants and private investigators, if the estate warrants it.