Most people have heard of having a last will and testament, but what does it truly mean?
We're here to explain what a will is, the most important reasons you need one, and how they benefit you and your loved ones.
What is a Last Will and Testament in Florida?
A last will and testament is a legal document that expresses someone’s wishes for what happens to their assets after they die. A will also appoints someone to ensure those wishes are carried out and assets are transferred where they are intended.
Regardless of the size of your assets or the balance of your bank account, you could benefit from a last will and testament.
Even if it's just making sure your spouse receives your car or your children equally split profits from the sale of your home. A will makes everything a lot smoother after you're no longer there to care for loved ones.
5 Reasons You Need a Last Will and Testament in Florida
Wills are valuable estate planning documents that anyone can benefit from.
Decide Who Receives Your Assets
With a last will and testament, you can leave loved ones specific assets.
Without a will, a court typically prioritizes the closest blood relatives when distributing assets.
Name a Personal Representative (or Executor) of Your Will
When you write your last will and testament, you will name the person responsible for ensuring your assets are properly distributed. This person is known as the executor.
It's important to think about who you trust best to carry out your wishes.
Nominate a Guardian for Children
If you have a child that is not yet of legal age, a will allows you to nominate a guardian for them should you die while they are still a minor. Without designating a guardian for your child in your will, a court will usually assign a child to the closest relative even if they aren’t the best fit for the child.
Minimize Possibility of Disputes Over Assets
Your last will and testament outlines your final wishes so it is clear to loved ones. Because of this, loved ones aren’t likely to dispute the distributions of assets.
However, if you don’t have a will, your final wishes will be up for debate. This often results in arguments among loved ones who fight for your assets.
Provide For Your Favorite Charity
Any legitimate charity can benefit from a donation, no matter the amount. There’s also an upside for your beneficiaries because the money you leave to charity can reduce the amount of estate taxes they have to pay.
Requirements for a Last Will and Testament in Florida
Being a legal document, there are certain requirements for a will to be recognized by a court.
You Must Have Two Witnesses During the Signing
For a will to be valid, two people have to be present and witness the signing of the document. Then, they will also sign it themselves. This can’t just be anybody, though.
Requirements for last will and testament witnesses include:
They must be able-minded
Neither person can be the spouse of the person who created the will
Each witness must be of legal age
Neither witness can be a beneficiary
The Creator Must Sign It
Another requirement for a valid will in Florida is that the person who created the will must sign it at the end. This helps to prevent family members or other third-party interests from creating a will in your name.
The testator also (the person who created the will) must be of legal age and sound mind for the will to be valid.
It Must be in Writing
In general, a will is only valid if it is handwritten or printed. There are special circumstances where an oral will can be valid, but it’s difficult to prove and may not hold up in court.
Because of this, you should create a written will as soon as possible in case of an untimely death.
Name an Executor
An executor is a person or entity that ensures the wishes outlined in your will are carried out. It can be a loved one, a financial institution, or a lawyer.
Do You Need a Last Will and Testament in Florida?
A will is not required in Florida, but it is highly recommended if you want to have a say in who gets certain assets after you die.
Without a last will and testament, a court decides who gets specific assets, and it may not be your person of choice. The courts can also designate a guardian for your child if you die before they are of legal age. These court allocations may be contested, but it is an expensive uphill battle to get them overturned.
Does a Last Will and Testament Avoid Probate?
A will does not keep your assets out of probate. Probate is a lengthy process that can cost thousands of dollars and delay asset distribution for many months. Because of this, many people want to avoid having their assets go through the probate process.
The best way to avoid probate is to put your assets into a trust rather than allocate them using a last will and testament.
Does a Last Will and Testament Need to be Recorded in Florida?
A will does not need to be recorded in a court while the testator is still alive. However, it must be submitted to the county courthouse where the decedent lived within ten days of learning of the testator’s passing.