Legal Requirements for a Will To Be Valid in Florida

A will is a legal document that outlines how an individual wants to distribute assets or appoint guardians to look after their underage children in the unfortunate event of death. This article provides comprehensive information on the legal requirements for a will to be valid in Florida. 

But, before we outline and explain Florida will requirements, it’s essential to understand the standard terms used in last will and testament documents and the probate process. Some of these terms are:

  • Beneficiary – A person named in a will to receive an inheritance. 
  • Codicil – A supplementary document that modifies, alters, or revokes previous wills. 
  • Executor – A person, the testator, selects in the will to be in charge of distributing the testator’s assets after their death. As per Florida will requirements, another legal term for “executor” is “personal representative.” The executor should not be a beneficiary of the estate and must be a Florida resident, and if not a resident, then a close relative of the testator. 
  • Inheritance – A description of the property or assets and accompanying rights outlined in a will that a beneficiary will receive.  
  • Intestate succession – Is the distribution of the deceased assets according to state laws when a person dies without making a will. 
  • Probate – The legal right to administer the transfer of assets previously owned by a deceased person. 
  • Residuary estate – Refers to the part of the probate estate that remains after the executors distribute the gifts and pays all debts, taxes, or expenses such as probate fees or court costs.
  • Specific bequest – Is the act of leaving property or properties to an individual through a will. 
  • Testator – The person making the will and executes (signs) it. A testator must be of sound mind and 18 years of age or above. 
  • Witness – A person who is not a beneficiary, present when the testator signs the will. A witness must be of sound mind and 18 years of age or above. 

How To Create a Will in Florida?

If you seek information on how to make a will in Florida, simply download the last will and testament template Florida, and answer the questionnaire. Before you start the process, have the following information at hand.

Once you have all the information above, complete the questionnaire, download the final document, and sign. Florida last will and testament requirements provide that the testator and the witnesses sign the will in the presence of each other. 

5 Requirements for a Will To Be Valid in Florida

In line with Florida will guidelines, only after a court process called probate can the assets of a deceased person be transferred to the beneficiaries. If a person dies intestate, the court will determine the distribution of their properties and make decisions concerning the care of any minors. 

However, if the person had a valid last will and testament, the personal representative is responsible for probating the estate. The personal representative ensures the distribution of assets to beneficiaries according to the will and payment of any outstanding debts or expenses. 

Florida will requirements

If you want to avoid a scenario where a probate judge decides who looks after your minor children or the distribution of your property after your death, then consider making a will. 

Florida law has five main requirements for a valid will as outlined in Part v of chapter 32 of the Florida statutes.

  1. Testamentary intent and capacity. 

Florida law requires that the testator demonstrates testamentary intent and capacity. Intent means that the testator must create the will without force or fraud, while capacity means that the testator must be of sound mind and over 18 (unless an emancipated minor). 

  1. It must be in writing. 

According to Florida will guidelines, the probate courts only allow written wills. Probate courts in Florida do not recognize oral declarations (nuncupative wills) or handwritten instructions without witnesses’ signatures (holographic wills).

  1. The testator must sign it.

The law requires the testator to sign the will, either by an official signature, mark, symbol, initial, or stamp, for the will to be valid. The law requires that the testator signs at the end of the will. 

  1. Must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses.

Florida will requirements provide that the testator and witnesses sign the document in the presence of each other. 

  1. The law does not require the use of standardized forms or official terminologies.

As long as the documents fulfill the above requirements, Florida law does not require using standardized forms or particular terminologies. 

Commonly asked questions on legal requirements for a will to be valid in Florida. 

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions on last will and testament Florida. 

What are the types of wills in Florida?

There are four types of wills for estate planning in Florida. These are:

  • Simple Will or Last Will and Testament – It is the most basic type of will. A Florida last will and testament pdf allows the testator to appoint an executor to administer the probate estate according to their wishes. The testator can also nominate a guardian for children under 16 in a simple will. 
  • Pour – Over Will – Serves to a testator with a trust-based estate plan. Upon the testator’s death, the will transfers into the family trust, assets the testator did not title under the trust. 
  • Mirror Image will – Since Florida last will and testament requirements do not allow for joint wills, couples (married or unmarried) with common assets often use mirror image wills. Mirror image wills are two identical wills with similar provisions, except for the testator’s name. 
  • Testamentary Trust – The will creates a trust that comes into existence after the testator’s death. 

Does a will need to be notarized in Florida?

No. Florida will requirements do not require a will to be notarized. However, you may consider working with an estate planning attorney to make your will self-proving. 

Does a will need to be recorded in Florida?

Yes. Following Florida last will and testament requirements, the executor or any other person in possession of a will can record it (file or register the document in a probate court) within ten days of the testator’s death. 

What Are the Legal Requirements for Changing Your Will in Florida?

You can change your last will and testament, Florida, when you find that your will no longer reflects your intentions or reality. Whenever your life circumstances change, through events such as marriage, divorce, getting another child, acquiring new assets, or an executor of your will dies, then you should change your will by: 

  1. Writing a new will – Writing the new will requires that you align with the legal requirements of creating a will. Legally, the new will overrides the previous will.
  2. Amending the existing one – You can change or modify a will through an instrument called a Codicil. A codicil is useful when you:
    1. Want to change the number and names of the beneficiaries or executors;
    2. Change the property designations to the beneficiaries;
    3. Include a new real estate or any other significant change in your assets; and
    4. You want to combine more than one codicil. 

To be considered valid, Florida will guidelines require that the codicil contains your signature and those of two witnesses who should sign the document simultaneously. Codicils are not complete wills but are attached to the original will to provide additional information. 

Do I Need an Attorney To Create a Last Will and Testament in Florida?

You do not need an attorney to create a last will. However, you must adhere to all legal requirements for creating a valid will in Florida. It is best to work with a probate lawyer in Florida who will help you make and amend documents relevant to your estate plan. Working without an attorney may make your estate vulnerable to intestate distribution according to the Florida probate process and possibly against the best interests of your family and other beneficiaries.  

Final Word

The legal requirements for a will to be valid in Florida are that the document is made in writing by an adult of sound mind. Further, the law requires the testator and witnesses to sign the paper in the presence of each other. 

According to Florida last will and testament requirements, you do not have to use a standard form, official terminologies, or notarize a will for it to be valid. However, it is always prudent to work with an estate planning attorney who will assess your estate and provide insights on how it will be inventoried, valued, taxed, and distributed after your death. The attorney will educate you about the probate process and help you draft your will, codicil, or any other legal documents relevant to the distribution of your estate after your death. 

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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