Estate Planning: Wills

In Florida, estate planning law requires a valid Will to be in writing that is signed by a testator (who is over 18 with testamentary capacity) and attested to by two disinterested witnesses. Florida does not accept Holographic Wills, which is a Will that is handwritten, signed but not witnessed.

  • Testamentary capacity: Testator must be of sound mind and 18 years old or an emancipated minor at the time he makes a Will. Testator must understand who his heirs should be even if he chooses different ones at a later time.
  • Will Execution:
    • Testators must sign first.
    • The witnesses must sign in the testator's presence.
    • The witnesses must sign in the presence of each other.
  • Self-Proving Affidavit: Wills don't require a self-proving affidavit where the testator and witnesses sign again in front of a notary, but it's strongly recommended.

Other states have very similar formation and execution requirements with small exceptions such as the number of witnesses, where witnesses must sign, and whether Holographic Wills are valid.

Some advantages of drafting and executing a will:

  • Wills limit familial disputes: When clear direction of where your property is intended to go is on paper – it is less of a likelihood that your family members will fight over the process.
  • Wills make the estate distribution process quicker and easier: With a well-written will, a personal representative or executor won't have to rely upon state statute for asset distribution and can distribute assets quicker and more efficiently.
  • A will can convey your intentions for property use more clearly: For instance, a father can outline in his Will that he bequeaths a certain asset (such as a car) to his daughter and then suggest that she sell that car to buy herself and her children a home or pay off an existing mortgage. Although no action is required, the daughter at least knows her father's true intentions for giving her the car.

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