Who do you want to receive your money and property after you pass away? Who do you trust to be in control of your estate? A Last Will & Testament in Florida is the most basic legal document to ensure that you decide the answers to these questions, not a judge or the state of Florida.
A Last Will and Testament—commonly referred to as just a “Will”—is a formal legal document in which someone directs the distribution of their assets after death. A Will is also used to choose a personal representative, aka executor, who will be appointed by the court to manage the estate and disburse the assets according to the provisions of the Last Will & Testament.
When someone dies without a Will in Florida, their estate will be distributed according to Florida intestate laws. The rules for intestate succession in Florida determine who inherits the assets of the estate.
In general, the order of priority for inheritance via intestate succession is as follows:
One notable exception to this order occurs when either a husband or wife has children from outside the marriage. If the decedent and the surviving spouse are a traditional nuclear family and have no children from outside the marriage, then 100% of the estate passes to the surviving spouse. Alternatively, if the decedent or the surviving spouse has a child outside of the marriage (with some other partner), then the surviving spouse is entitled to 50% of the estate, and the remaining 50% is split among all of the decedent’s descendants.
Everyone should have a Last Will & Testament to make their wishes known and ensure their property goes to the people or organizations of their choosing.
It is important, however, to understand what a Will can and cannot do.
A Will can do the following:
There are many things, however, that a Will cannot do:
For a Will to be valid, it must meet certain requirements:
After a Will is drafted, life can change. With certain life events, you may need to change beneficiaries, address new assets, or name a different personal representative. A Will can either be revoked, and potentially redone in full, or simply modified with a document called a “Codicil.”
A Codicil is often used to make a simple adjustment, such as to change the nominated personal representative. However, a Codicil must be executed with the same legal formalities as a Will. A Will can also be changed through revocation. A Will or Codicil can be revoked completely through destruction or written instruction.
When drafting a Will, it is important to consider the potential that it may be challenged in court. Only “interested persons” such as heirs, creditors, and beneficiaries that can benefit from having a Will voided have the right to challenge a Will. Challenging a Will also requires a legal basis such as:
A Will is the foundation of any estate plan. It is always recommended to hire an attorney to draft the Last Will & Testament to ensure it is drafted and executed properly.
Do you need help with probate as an executor or personal representative? Contact the Florida Probate Law Firm, PLLC for a free 30-minute consultation. We help families through the Florida probate process with services tailored to your individual needs.
We often work with families so that our invoices are paid directly from the decedent’s assets, such as bank accounts or the sale of the decedent’s residence, in order to minimize out of pocket expenses for the family to whatever extent possible.
Schedule your free consultation with Florida Probate Law Firm by filling out our contact form below.