Putting together even a basic will can seem overwhelming. The estate planning process is extremely important and should be handled with care. Your will must be valid in order for it to effectively pass on your property. A valid will is in fact a crucial component of any estate plan.
A last will and testament that is drafted by a knowledgeable Orlando wills attorney is an official legal document that articulates your desires for the distribution of your assets after you pass away.
Failing to update your will or not having a will in the first place can make things much more difficult than necessary for your loved ones. After you pass away, your will must be filed directly with the Florida probate court. The court is then responsible for overseeing the distribution of your assets.
Since Florida doesn’t assess inheritance tax or estate tax, many people skip out on the crucial step of planning a will. No matter the size of your estate, you may wish to bequeath your complete estate directly to the spouse. There are other things you may need to include in your will that could accomplish your individual estate planning goals.
What You Need To Know About Valid Wills In Florida
Compared with other legal documents that should be prepared by an attorney, wills have the most formal procedures for signing. A last will and testament that is not signed in full compliance under the Florida laws can generate disputes down the line.
Someone could contest your will and argue that it is invalid, leading to further delays and expenses on behalf of your beneficiaries whom you probably intended to receive the assets immediately. If you want to avoid your loved ones having to deal with a will contest, you can take a number of different steps now to ensure that your will is legally valid. These include:
- Signing in front of a notary, in conjunction with the two required witnesses, such that the will can be self-proven. If one of the witnesses becomes unavailable or dies, the notary signature adds an additional layer of validity. A self-proving will can be accepted into probate in Florida.
- Sign in the presence of two witnesses who are at the same place at the same time. Both of these witnesses should be present.
- Sign your last will and testament at the end of the document.
You may also wish to go the additional step of ensuring that your doctor gives you clearance for competence reasons. If it is possible that a family member or someone else in the future may argue that you were not competent at the time you signed the will, this could be used as grounds to disprove the will.
A last will and testament in Florida can only be valid if it has a clause that designates a personal representative to manage the estate administration after the death of the person who put together the will. The custodian of the original valid will has to deposit it with the circuit court clerk in the county in which the decedent last resided. This must occur no later than ten days after the deceased has passed away.
A valid will may also incorporate clauses creating testamentary trusts which is a structure inside the will that allows a group of people or a person to manage assets on behalf of someone else.
The Essential Components Of A Will
Since the will is your written instructions to a probate court that declares how you want your assets titled in your name distributed at your time of death, it is important to consider your individual goals. There are two primary components of a well-drafted will.
The first has to do with clear instructions regarding the beneficiaries of your property; who gets what of your property and how, and the naming of the personal representatives, also referred to as the executor or the persons who you wish to handle your affairs after something happens to you. Anyone who is aged 18 or older can generate a last will and testament in Florida.
Whether it is future possessions of your vehicle, or your million-dollar estate, an attorney-drafted customized will is an extremely important component of your estate planning. It gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out if something happens to you.
Do You Really Need An Orlando Estate Planning Attorney For A Wills?
Many people assume that a will they have created on their own is sufficient. While if done correctly, this will can be legal and valid, the do-it-yourself approach can present unforeseen problems that ultimately make your beneficiaries the ones dealing with it after the fact.
Not accounting for legal consequences and options can put everyone in a difficult situation. You need to ask critical questions of your Orlando estate planning attorney to verify that your will is valid. These include:
- Who becomes the guardian of your minor child if you pass away?
- Have any changes occurred in Florida or federal laws that would invalidate the current language of your will?
- What assets are not considered part of a Florida probate estate?
- Have you received appropriate counseling on donations, gift and estate taxation, and asset protection planning?
- Have you considered putting together a trust as an estate planning strategy for the benefit of loved ones and who would administer these trusts?
- At what ages do you wish your children to receive an inheritance and who will manage it for them until they reach that age?
Inheritance Laws in Florida
When a person passes away without a valid will, Florida inheritance law will designate who will inherit from the decedent. If there are no children and only a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will receive everything. If there are surviving heirs and a spouse, the surviving spouse gets an amount defined by the laws and the remaining heirs’ portion is allocated according to the statute. As the family tree gets more complicated, so too the laws aligned with how the estate should be distributed.
A knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Orlando can assist you with these complications and ensure that your wishes are appropriately honored. The state of Florida essentially decides who gets your assets by following the predetermined formula and this may not be in line with your individual intentions.
Not having a will can also slow down the probate process significantly by making it more frustrating, a bigger involvement of time, and expensive for your loved ones. If you want to designate exactly who should receive your assets and not rely on the state of Florida’s calculations, you will want to set aside time to speak with an Orlando estate planning attorney.
What Are the Basics for Putting Together a Will?
In order for your will to be classified as legally valid in Florida, you must be a minimum of 18 years old. You also must be of capable mind at the time that you sign the will. The will has to be written and it has to be witnessed and notarized in a specific method provided by the Florida laws that govern wills.
It is important to follow the formalities for execution of your will effectively and in order for your will to be taken seriously, it must be proved in and accepted by the probate court. The will remains active until the decedent passes away and it can be changed or updated by the testator at any time, such as adding an amendment or generating an entirely new will.
Writing on a will following its execution can invalidate that portion of the will or all of it, so it is important to remember that a will’s terms cannot be changed simply by marking a section after it’s been executed.
What You Can Accomplish With A Will
There are many different things you can accomplish inside your will, including:
- Deciding who bears any tax burden.
- Naming a guardian for minor children.
- Selling real estate and other assets without court proceedings.
- Making gifts effective at or beyond your death to charity.
- Determining who gets your property.
- Naming your personal executor.
- Naming a trust that is created in the will ensuring that a portion or all of the estate is kept intact with income accumulated and distributed for the benefit of your loved ones.
Can I Dispose Of My Property In Any Way I Want With A Will?
Any property can be transferred within a will, but there are some particular interests that cannot be willed since the owner’s right immediately terminates upon his or her death.
Some examples of property rights and interests that fall under this category include a life estate such as property that was owned only during the life of the owner, any property that was owned in a joint fashion with another person with right of survivorship, and the residence of a homestead.
Furthermore, an individual cannot disinherit his or her spouse without an appropriately executed marital agreement. The law gives surviving spouses the choice to take over their share through the will or a section of the decedent’s property due to Florida’s elective share statutes.
The statute uses a very specific formula generated at the state level and it is extremely complicated to understand without the attorney. It is important to realize that you can adjust your will to your individual guidelines. Your will remains good until it is revoked or changed in the manner required by the law. You are eligible to update your will as much as you wish while you are not under any undue influence, fraud or duress, so long as the will is updated in the appropriate manner.
Does A Will Increase My Probate Expenses?
A property has to be administrated or taxes must be paid by the estate. The existence of a will in and of itself does not increase the probate expenses. A will often reduce expenses. If there is personal or real property that needs to be transferred at death, a probate court will have their jurisdiction to ensure that it is passed off appropriately.
If there is no will, it will be passed along in accordance with the statutes. Your heirs must still go to court to administer your estate even if you do not have a will in place. These procedures can be very expensive and can add additional frustration for your loved ones when they are already coping with the loss of a loved one.
Contact An Experienced Orlando Wills Attorney
Setting aside time to discuss with an attorney how a will can benefit you and make things easier for your beneficiaries down the line is strongly recommended. There are so many unique facets of estate planning to consider and you may need special support from an experienced attorney who has been practicing in this field for years. Contact Frost Law today at (407) 670-5569 for your free consultation.