Florida Last Will & Testament FAQ
A will is a vital document that ensures those left behind are saved the trouble of financial hardships and uncertainties.
A will prevents endless fighting over assets by outlining the deceased’s final wishes, primarily how he or she would have wanted to distribute their estate if they were still living.
It is perhaps the most well-known document for Floridians as this is considered America’s retirement home. However, what many might not be familiar with are the prerequisites for a valid will. That forms today’s topic as we answer various questions on the matter. Take a look:
Who can make a will?
Florida law gives anyone 18 or over the ability to make a will provided they are of sound mind and capacity.
However, there is one exception to the age limit:
- emancipated minors, deemed legally competent to make their own decisions encompassing contracts and whatnot, have the power to make a valid will.
- Emancipation may be as a result of military participation of some sort, earning an educational diploma/certificate, or through marriage.
- Florida law allows minors aged 16 and above to file for emancipation but only with parental consent.
What types of wills won’t hold up in Florida courts?
State guidelines particularly exclude, in no uncertain terms, nuncupative and holographic wills.
A nuncupative will is a witnessed, oral or verbal will, typically made in circumstances where the individual is unable to write a will. For example, a terminally ill person on their deathbed may decide to write a final will and testament. However, it would be too late at that point.
Although Florida law doesn’t acknowledge this as a valid last will, it is accepted in some jurisdictions across the US.
A holographic will is one made in the absence of witnesses. With only the testator’s signature serving as proof, this for obvious reasons, is also not a valid legal will. Few states recognize it, and Florida is among the states that do not. A handwritten will is usually valid, however, if signed by witnesses as well.
What are the basic requirements for a valid will?
A will becomes holographic if stipulated Florida formalities are not included, but it is valid otherwise.
These formalities require:
- A signature at the end of the document
- Two witness signatures on the will, both signed in the presence of all three parties
- The testator’s signature, or their representative. In the latter case, the testator must still be present during the signing.
- The document should be in writing.
It’s worth noting that a formal signature isn’t a necessity. The testator is free to use any letter, mark, or symbol to represent his or her signature.
Also, the state reserves the right to distribute property or assets if the testator doesn’t do so in the will. That is the case as well if an individual dies intestate.
Can a will be changed or amended?
Somewhere down the line, the testator might feel differently about how he or she would like to distribute the estate.
In this case, the individual can use a codicil to make any amendments, clarifications, or minor changes. The codicil is only acceptable if it adheres to the same formalities that the initial valid will had in the first place.
What about wills validated in other jurisdictions?
Except for the nuncupative and holographic wills mentioned previously, Florida accepts wills executed under foreign state jurisdictions with different requirements to its own. However, these should be reviewed by a Florida probate attorney as soon as possible.
What about digital wills?
Electronic Wills became legal in the state of Florida in 2017. The Florida Senate voted unanimously to authorize electronic wills. This is no surprise as most people have smartphones, and technology is becoming a part of daily life for people living in the 21st century.
Recently, the Florida Senate again voted unanimously to authorize electronic wills (HB 409). And this time it got signed into law. Now if you present a legal electronic will in probate court, it should be valid. If you had done so 3-4 years ago, you might have lost the bulk of your inheritance.
Should you have any questions about wills that still in need of answering, be sure to reach out to your Florida attorney for some experienced insight.