A last will and testament is your way of expressing your final wishes. It's a document that outlines exactly who you want to leave your assets to and who will care for any minor children.
Each state has laws and regulations regarding the creation and filing of a will. If a will doesn't meet all of Florida's legal requirements, it will be as if it was never created at all, and the court will determine where your assets go and who takes guardianship of minor children. Unfortunately, this happens often, meaning all of the decedent’s wishes can't be fulfilled.
To ensure your will is legally binding, our experienced attorney explains Florida’s will requirements.
6 Requirements for a Will in Florida
A last will and testament is one of the most well-known estate planning tools. It's beneficial for everyone to have a will, regardless of the size of their home or the value of their bank accounts.
While there are no limitations as to which assets can be distributed in a will, there are numerous legal requirements a will has to meet to be valid in court.
The Will Must be in Writing
While some states allow verbal declarations of your plans for your estate (AKA nuncupative wills), Florida does not. Florida requires all wills to be hard copies (or at least printable as of July 2020) to be legally binding.
The Testator Must Be of Sound Mind
Being of sound mind means that you understand the following three things:
The extent of the property your will covers
Your relationship to those you name as beneficiaries
The practical use and effect of your will
With this in mind, consider setting up a will as soon as possible. You never plan on becoming incapacitated or losing your mental capacity, but in the worst-case scenario event you do, it's vital that you already had a will created.
The Testator Must Be of Legal Age
Florida law requires a will to be created by a person of legal age (unless they are an emancipated minor). If it is found that a legal testator did not create a will, it will lose legitimacy and won't hold up in court.
The Testator Must Sign It in Front of Two Witnesses
The testator (the person creating the will) must sign their will in front of two witnesses.
Any person of legal age and sound mind can serve as a witness to a will signing. However, we highly encourage you to use witnesses that are disinterested parties.
The witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will or stand to gain anything from your passing. When beneficiaries also act as witnesses, disputes can occur down the road about whether or not there was any coercion or bias.
The Witnesses Must Sign It
After your witnesses watch you sign your will, they must sign it, too. You should have them sign it right after you do because you also have to watch them sign.
Starting in July 2020, Florida began allowing virtual signatures for electronic wills. This makes it easier for you to accomplish the signing and witnessing process should your trusted witnesses not be able to be in your physical presence.
The Will Must Be Submitted to Probate Court
Your executor (the person responsible for carrying out the terms of your will) is responsible for filing your will with the local circuit court.
They must file it within 10 days of learning of your death to start the probate process. If there is no reasonable cause for taking longer than 10 days, legal fees, damages, and court costs are placed upon the executor.
Do I Need to Notarize My Will in Florida?
Florida does not require your will to be notarized. You need two competent adults to witness you signing it and then sign it themselves.
However, you need it notarized if you want to make your will self-proving. This means that your will can enter probate without the testimony of your witnesses. This small step is usually done to speed up the process since probate can take a long time.
Can I Write My Own Will in Florida?
Technically yes, no Florida law states your will needs to be created or reviewed by an attorney.
However, the laws that determine whether a will is valid are strict, and they don't make exceptions just because someone chose to write their own will without legal guidance. If you write a will that isn't valid after you pass away, your assets will be distributed according to Florida's intestacy laws, rather than your wishes.
Do You Need Help Writing a Florida Will?
Our team of experienced estate planning attorneys can make your will air-tight.
We will help you every step of the way to ensure everything is covered and legally binding. There is no shame in asking for help — especially when it comes to the law. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!