Florida Wills: Creating a Valid Will
A will is a document that allows you to specify what should happen to your property after you die. However, for a will to be enforceable, it must be valid - and in Florida, a testator (the creator of the will) must adhere to the state's various estate planning laws to ensure that his or her wishes are followed.
A valid Florida will requires witnesses
We asked Sarah E. Peart, an attorney from Tampa Florida whose practice focuses mainly in the areas of wills, trusts, estate planning and real estate law, to explain how witnesses are used to create a valid will in Florida. She told us, "You need at least two witnesses to a will in the state of Florida in order for it to be valid. You can have more, but you need at least two and they can also be beneficiaries under the will. It does not have to be notarized. The testator could sign and then just announce to the witnesses that it was his/her will."
Self-proving wills in Florida
Peart says that, in Florida, you can self-prove your will, which is always a very good idea as it saves a lot of time and effort when your estate needs to be probated. She explained:
It is also a relatively easy thing to do, (though the law must be followed exactly) as self-proof just requires that the witnesses and the testator all sign in the presence of each other, and in the presence of a notary, after all have been sworn under oath and after the testator acknowledges the document as his/her will and the witnesses acknowledge they are witnesses to the will of the testator.
If you do not have a self-proving will, then the witnesses who witnessed your will at the time would have to submit an affidavit to the court stating that they did witness execution and that the document was indeed your will. However, if you self-prove the will, this step is completely eliminated. If you don't have a self-proving will and your witnesses have died, can't be found, or do not remember witnessing the document, it can become a serious issue.
Changing a will in Florida
Changing your will can be done by amendment or creating an entirely new will - but it must be done correctly in order to maintain the will's validity. Peart continued, "You can execute a codicil to change a will, which is basically known as an amendment to the will and just attach that to the will itself. You can also revoke the entire will and start over again if you want. It really depends on how many changes you're going to be making. If you're changing the entire will, then it's probably better to create a whole new will. If you're just making one or two changes, then it would probably be better to have a codicil."
Estate planning is a very specific area of law that encompasses wills, trusts, health care directives, probate and more. Click here, to contact an experienced Florida wills lawyer to discuss your situation.