Every adult should have a will to protect their wealth and their best wishes post-death. But it’s critical that you follow Florida’s requirements of a valid will to avoid contests or invalidation.
We hope this guide will make things clearer. If you have any further questions, we welcome you to call us for a free assessment.
The Requirements for a Valid Will in Florida
Every state has different laws for the creation and procedures of a will. So please, only follow the laws specific to the state you are a permanent resident in. (Source: Florida Statute 732.502)
All these requirements must be followed by the creator of the will (the ‘Testator’). However, witnesses will be required.
Must Be Written
- Florida probate courts do not recognize oral declarations (such as video or voice-recorded wills).
- Your will must be written or typed by the testator or with the assistance of their legal representative.
Must be Signed
- The testator must sign the will.
- This can be a mark, symbol, letter or initials, so long as it serves as a signature.
Must Be Made By a ‘Competent’ Person
- A will must be made by a person 18 years old or older (or Emancipated minors).
- The person must be of ‘sound mind’, for example, they cannot competently sign a will if their decision-making is impacted by dementia.
Witnesses Must Sign
- Two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator.
- All should be present during the signing.
- The witness must be a competent person.
- Witnesses can include relatives or people who potentially benefit from the will, however, it is advised against to avoid ‘undue influence’ accusations later.
Can Be Amended or Revoked
- Wills can be amended (edited) or revoked entirely by a new will; or a codicil, which is a document that describes modifications or extensions to the will.
- The new will should state that the previous versions are now invalid.
Language That Discourages Will Contests
- Although wills can contain language that prevents or threatens an interested person from contesting the will, Florida does not recognize or enforce such clauses.
Read Related: Frequently Asked Questions About Wills
When Can a Will Be Invalidated?
Florida probate courts declare will documents invalid when there have been:
- Undue influence or manipulation
- A Mistake in the drafting or execution of the will.
These mistakes might not invalidate the entire will but can cause significant chaos and distress to the surviving family. If you feel you are being pressured or have been pressured while creating a will, the best thing is to work with an attorney who will remove the opportunity for foul play to occur.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Create a Will?
It’s strongly advised that you work with a lawyer when creating a will, especially in:
- High-value estates
- Estates containing many personal items or valuable items
- Estates containing business interests
- Blended families (such as those with step-kids from different marriages)
One mistake can leave your entire estate plan open for misinterpretation or contesting, which could mean your estate is either dealt with in a way you didn’t plan, becomes invalidated or spends months (or even years) in probate – which is the last thing your loved ones will want!
We welcome you to contact our experienced Florida will and trust lawyers today for a free assessment. We can help make your documentation legally watertight and open estate planning doors that you may have been unaware of.
Read Related: Online Wills: Why You Shouldn’t Use DIY Will Services
What Other Estate Planning Options Do I Have?
If you’re in the process of completing your estate plan, then there are a wide range of options available to you in addition to a will.
Trusts, for example, are the primary suggestion as they give you additional asset protection and control over the long-term management of your wealth.
Please contact us today if you are interested in learning about:
- Charitable Lead Trust
- Charitable Remainder Trust
- Dynasty Trusts
- Generation-Skipping Trust
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trust
- Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust
- Irrevocable Trusts
- Living Trusts
- Pet Trust
- Qualified Personal Residence Trust
Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer for Your Will in Pinellas County, FL
If you want to draft or amend your will in Pinellas County, then our Pinellas County estate planning attorneys can help. We regularly help Floridians create legally water-tight documents, and assist in the optimal estate planning strategies for their long-term vision.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create a will or trust.