Everyone should undertake the unpleasant but necessary task of deciding what happens to their property after they die. A will is the foundation of estate planning.
A will allows you to decide who gets your property instead of a court making this decision under Florida law. Wills also perform other functions, which include:
- indentifying the executor of the will who will manage the estate if that person or financial institution meets legal qualifications
- Real estate and other assets may be sold without legal proceedings
- Make gifts to charities upon death or afterward
- Designate who pays taxes instead of a court making this decision
- Name guardian for minor children
In Florida, wills must comply with certain legal requirements or may be invalidated. The maker of the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old and also of sound mind when signing the will. Wills need to be written, witnessed and notarized.
To be enforced, Wills must be admitted in probate proceedings. Documents need to be filed to obtain a probate order and to administer the estate. Wills must be self-proving or proved by the oath of witnesses. The estate attorney and interested individuals normally do not appear in probate court in most counties in the state.
Other considerations also apply to wills. For example, Every person who owns property who chooses to exercise the disposition of their estate after their death, regardless of the size of their estate, should have a will. Also, marriage does not cancel a will. But a spouse who married the testator after the will may receive one half of the estate which is the same if the testator died without a will.
Importantly, anyone who moved to Florida from another state will want to have their will and other estate documents reviewed to assure that they comply with Florida law and that their personal representative is qualified to serve in this state.