Will Drafting Lawyers in Florida
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We Are Your Will Drafting Lawyers in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade County.
What is “Intestate Distribution” and why should I care?
In Florida, when we speak about the distribution of a person’s assets upon death, the first question lawyers ask is “Did the person die intestate?” Intestate simply means, “Did the person die without a valid will?”
Under Florida law, a person dies intestate if he has not executed a will, or executed a will that is invalid in whole or in part, or revoked a previous will without executing a new will.
Florida Will Validity is Critical
A person may die partially testate and partially intestate if his will does not dispose of all of the assets in his probate estate or if the will is vague, or partially invalid. This could mean that all or a portion of your assets will not go to your intended beneficiary.
Our South Florida Lawyers draft wills that carry out your precise intentions.
The Purpose of a Will in Florida
Our Florida Will Attorneys can draft a will that protects and provides for your family. The death of a loved one is a stressful time full of heartbreak and despair. This is not a time to ask your loved ones to engage in a complicated and protracted battle that might further tear apart a family.
Your Broward, Palm Beach or Miami Dade lawyer will draft a will that can speak to many of your intentions, when you are no longer able to speak for yourself. We will help you draft a will that clearly conveys your intentions in regard to:
- Leaving real and personal property to the people or organizations that you wish to take possession, and the amounts of possession;
- How expenses of your estate should be paid, including funeral costs;
- Name personal guardians to care for minor children;
- Name caretakers for beloved pets;
- Name trusted persons to manage property left in care to minor children;
- Name a person to make sure that the terms of your will are carried out (in Florida this is known as your Personal Representative).
What happens if I die without a will in Florida?
The short answer is, “Possibly many things that were not what you intended.”
In Florida, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to the Florida Laws of “Intestate Succession”. This could lead to your property winding up in the hands of very un-intended beneficiaries.
Florida’s intestacy laws dispose of your property according to statute. This can be especially dangerous to people with 2nd or 3rd marriages, or children outside their current marriage.
As the list continues increasingly distant relatives will receive your estate, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your even your spouse’s relatives. If the court exhausts the statutory list finding no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property. The legal term for this is “Your Property Escheating to the State.”
Do I need a lawyer to make a will in Florida?
No. A lawyer is not a requirement of a legal and valid will in Florida. In Florida, you can legally make your own will. In fact there are dozens of do-it-yourself will software packages or online will programs.
However, having a lawyer draft your will is probably not nearly as costly as you think.
Alternatively, drafting your will yourself, without the help of a Florida Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning lawyer can wind up costing your loved ones everything.
Florida Laws in Regard to Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning Are Very Specific
The laws in Florida are very specific in regard to wills. A do it yourself will might seem like a good bargain at the time of purchase, but it might also wind up costing your family dearly in the long run.
Issues such as “Will interpretation” and what is known as “Will Formalities” highly complicate the drafting and validation process.
Your will might be “Contested.” Contested means the will might be challenged. Challenges may be filed by anyone. Challenges are not limited to family members.
The two most common types of will challenges in Florida are challenges to the validity of the will, and challenges as to the interpretation of the will.
Will Interpretation Challenges in Florida
Ambiguity in a will is a very common source of litigation. Properly crafted wills are drafted to avoid ambiguity. However, even language which may seem crystal clear to the average person, may be subject to challenges by crafty lawyers. You may believe that your words are crystal clear. They may not be in a court of law.
For example, a Will contest began over a dispute as to what the word “funds” described. The parties disagreed over whether or not “Funds” included liquid personal property (cash) or funds of the estate as a whole (cash, personal property, real property, etc.). Such an error may put millions of dollars in question, and eventually in the hands of an unintended beneficiary.
Another common error is an attempt to disinherit people by express exclusion, especially attempting to disinherit a spouse. Florida Homestead laws may further complicate these issues. These are tricky areas for which you should seek a lawyer’s advice.
What Are “Will Formalities?”
Will Formalities are the Florida Statutory requirements required by the state of Florida in order for a will to be valid under Florida law. To execute a valid will in Florida you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and your witnesses must sign your will in the presence of each other.
Required Will Execution Formalities in Florida
In Florida, a will must be in writing. Verbal wills are not valid. The will must be signed by the testator, and the signature must be at the end of the will. The Will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two attesting witnesses. The witnesses must then sign in the presence of one another.
Florida Will Requirements:
- The Will must be in writing.
- Signed by the testator, or one who signs at the testator’s direction and in the testator’s presence.
- Signature of testator must be at the end of the Will.
- Two attesting witnesses
- Witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator; and each other.
This Sounds Easy Right?
Will validity may be contested based upon lawful witnessing. Courts apply very specific tests to determine whether a Will was validly witnessed.
In the Line of Sight Test, the testator and the witnesses must be able to visually see each one another sign the Will.
In the Conscious Presence Test, the testator need not actually see the witnesses sign, but must be mentally conscious of the witnesses presence and the witness act of signing the Will.
Do I need to have my will notarized?
No, in Florida, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
However, Florida allows you to make your will “self-proving.” Self-proving saves your family time and money at the time of probate because the court will accept a “Self-Proving” Will without contacting the attesting witnesses who signed the Will. If the will is not self proving, then finding and hearing the testimony of the witnesses may cause significant expense and delay.
To make your will self-proving you and your witnesses will sign an affidavit with one of our notaries which proves the identity of the witnesses, and that each knew that you were signing your Will at the execution, and witnessing.
Naming a Personal Representative?
In Florida, your will can name a personal representative. The personal representative will be charged with the job of ensuring that the provisions in your will are carried out after death. If you don’t name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate. Again, the appointment may not be someone that you would have chosen. It may even be someone that you would never appoint.
Do you like our straight forward, and easy to understand explanations of complex legal concepts?
We’re changing the way people think about lawyers.
We understand the emotional difficulty and stress people go through when making time of death decisions because we’re people.
We also happen to be Florida Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Attorneys who can help you care for the people that you love, even after you’re gone.
We can help you.
Our Florida Wills and Trusts Attorneys serve clients in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, and most other Florida cities and counties.
We can give you the confidence and peace of mind that comes with the surety of knowing that your wishes will be carried out to your specifications. We will speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself.
We handle Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami Dade County and throughout Florida.
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