It is important that Florida residents prepare wills as part of their comprehensive estate plans, but few individuals fully understand the power that these testamentary documents hold. A will is more than just a list of property and the names of the individuals who should receive it. It is a controlling legal device that provides certainty to the probate process and overrides assumptions about what prospective beneficiaries may have thought to be true.
Necessary components of a legal will
In Florida, individuals must abide by certain procedural rules in order to have a valid will. For example, only adults and emancipated minors may create wills; children under the power of their parents or guardians may not execute such devices. Additionally, only individuals of sound mind can create valid wills. If a person does not understand the contents of their will, or what it will do after their death, then they may not be capable of executing a legally recognized will.
A valid will must also be validly signed. Florida law requires that a will be signed in the presence of two witnesses who were present when the testator signed the will. Special language required by Florida law must be included at the end of the will where the testator and witnesses sign. Last, it isn’t enough for a Notary to stamp the bottom of the will. Again, a self-proving affidavit must have certain language required by statute in order to be effective. Leaving out any one of these important steps can render a will invalid.
Benefits of having a valid will
There are many reasons to prepare a will. One reason is that a will gives the control of a testator’s property to them and not to the laws of the state. Florida, like other jurisdictions, has adopted laws of intestacy that outline to whom estate property should go if decedents do not prepare wills. Additionally, a valid will can help an individual assuage potential contests to their estates if their heirs or other beneficiaries dispute how and to whom items of property should pass. Finally, a valid and clearly written will can expedite the probate process and help the will’s executor collect, categorize, and distribute the estate’s property in an efficient manner.
Any adult, regardless of age or wealth, can consider preparing a will as part of their estate plan. Estate planning does not have to be difficult, but there are advantages to getting it right from the beginning. The assistance of an estate planning and probate attorney can provide a person with guidance and support as they plan for the distribution of their end of life estate.