Florida Will Drafting with Compassion
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Your will is set of written directions that controls how your property shall be distributed at the time of your death. It’s not a fun thing to do for you as a client or for us as Florida wills and trusts lawyers. However, if you allow us the honor of working on this critical task with you, we pledge to do so with professionalism, respect and deep compassion. We will help you achieve your goals by crafting a document that can speak clearly for you when you are not here to speak for yourself.
The laws of each state set the formal requirements for a legal will. Often these laws can be a maze of confusion. We can help you make absolutely sure that the people that you love are taken care of per your exact wishes, whether it’s a favorite loving child that brought you tremendous pride, or that son of a bitch son of yours that you want to be absolutely sure doesn’t get a single thin dime.
In Florida a will is valid only if:
- You, the maker of the will (called the testator), are at least 18 years old.
- You are of sound mind at the time you sign your will.
- Your will is in writing. In Florida oral wills are invalid.
- Your will is witnessed by two people while in your actual presence. You need to be in the room watching them sign, and they need to be watching you sign.
- You strictly follow formalities. In Florida, “will formalities” must be followed to the letter. Failure to follow strict will formalities can invite challenges.
- To be effective, your will must be proved valid by the probate court. This is often accomplished with a “Proving clause”.
A will is not final until the death of the testator because it may be altered, destroyed or revoked by the testator during their life. This may occur by the testator drafting a new will or “codicil,” which is simply a separately written addition or amendment executed with the same formalities as a will.
A will’s terms cannot be changed by merely writing something in or crossing something out after the will is executed. In fact, writing on the will after its execution may invalidate part of the will or all of it.
A Will is More than Merely Giving Away Property
Of course, we all know wills are about “Who” gets “What.” However a properly drafted and executed will which follows strict will formalities, drafted and supervised by a Florida wills and trusts attorney can do much more, including:
- Naming and empowering a personal representative (also called the “Executor”) of your will, provided the person named can qualify under Florida law. Your personal representative is empowered with management of the estate through probate. The executor may be an individual, bank or trust company, subject to certain limitations.
- A trust may be created in your will, with income distributed for the benefit of members of the family or others. Minors can be cared for without the expense of proceedings for guardianship of property.
- If you properly authorize, real and personal assets may be sold without court proceedings.
- You can decide who bears the tax burden of a gift rather than leaving the decision to the default rules under Florida law.
- A guardian may be named for minor children.
If you die without a will (this is called dying “intestate”) your property will be distributed to your heirs according to a formula fixed by Florida law called “The laws of intestate succession.” This is often not the manner that the decedent would want, but unfortunately he is not around to protest. The Florida inheritance statutes provide a rigid formula of distribution, making no exception for loved ones in unusual need.
Unlike many believe, if you die without a will your property does not go to the state of Florida unless there are absolutely no heirs at law. In other words, if you fail to make a will, the inheritance statute determines who gets your property.
When there is no will, the court appoints a personal representative, known or unknown to you, to manage your estate. The cost of probating may be greater than if you had planned your estate with a will, and the administration of your estate may be subject to greater court supervision.
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