Whenever we think of passing on our assets, and our legacy, to our family, the document that looms largest is always the last will and testament. Indeed, there are many different types of estate planning and probate-related documents and tools for those who want to pass assets to future generations yet leaving the property in a will are still one of the most common ways that your last wishes are memorialized.
Therefore, in this article, we will discuss in some detail the component parts of the last will and testament under Florida law. With this article, you can begin to plan how you want to go about leaving the property in a will to your loved ones.
If, after reading this article, you have additional questions about the probate process, or specifically leaving the property in a will, then we welcome you to give our Palm Beach attorneys a call at Doane & Doane, PA. Our firm focuses on probate, estate, and tax matters. We care deeply about our clients and want to make sure that they have the best, most up-to-date, information available.
At Doane & Doane, PA, we strive to give our clients the personalized legal counsel they need to appropriately take care of their taxes and other estate matters. Contact the Palm Beach probate lawyers at Doane & Doane, PA for probate, and estate planning advice and services. You can contact us today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.
To begin our discussion of leaving the property in a will in Florida, it is important to understand that there are a number of formalities that go into properly executing a will.
Now, you may ask: Why do we need all these formalities? The simple answer is because you want to make sure that a probate judge finds your last will and testament valid after you have passed away. Otherwise, all of your work putting together the will may be in vain.
A properly executed will in Florida have 3 main parts:
1. The body of the will;
2. The proper signing of the will; and
3. Attestation of the will.
The body, as you may expect, is the actual contents of the will (which we will discuss further below), providing how and to whom property and assets are distributed. The signing and attestation is a bit trickier. Although there is new legislation in Florida that allows the signing of a will to occur online, Florida still officially adheres to the “formal approach” in signing a will, which means that all witnesses and the notary should be in the same room as you when you sign the will.
Again, given the new legislation about online execution of a will – the “same room” is a concept that includes people watching the execution online. Of course, you will want to consult with an experienced probate attorney about the new legislation.
Finally, there is a concept you should understand called the “self-proving affidavit,” which is a will witnessed by a notary. Having a self-proving affidavit will allow a Florida will to be admitted to Florida probate court without having to find the witnesses.
As noted, the body of the will should contain all of the relevant distributions of assets. Plus, there are a number of key provisions that must be in the body of a will, because without them there is a chance that a probate judge will find the will to be incomplete.
Those key provisions are as follows:
1. Be sure you are identified as the “testator” of the will (the person making the will);
2. The will should be expressly identified as a “last will and testament.” Might seem obvious in reading the document, but clarity is key;
3. The will should appoint an executor (also known as personal representative in Florida) for ensuring proper execution of the will;
4. Describe how personal property should be distributed;
5. Provide for the special and general bequests – the actual giving of property and assets to beneficiaries;
6. Describe how payment of estate expenses should be handled; and
7. How to distribute the residuary estate (i.e., whatever is left after all gifts are bequeathed and debts paid).
Types of Florida Wills
Finally, there a few different types of wills in Florida. These types are in addition to the standard will described in the last section. A “pour-over will” in Florida is necessary when there is a revocable trust in your estate, and the assets, upon your death, simply “pour” into that trust.
A “holographic will” is a fancy name for a will that is handwritten. Holographic wills are not accepted in Florida, however, a Florida court will follow a holographic will if it was created in a state that does allow such wills. Such wills are not preferred and should only be reserved for emergency situations.
There is also a lesser-known “Florida Medicaid will,” which essentially creates a trust fund so that a surviving spouse can continue to be eligible for Medicaid benefits after you pass away.
There is a lot to know about leaving the property in a will in Florida. That is why you need to consult with a seasoned probate attorney in Florida.
Look to the Palm Beach Probate Attorneys at Doane & Doane for Help
Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.
Estate planning is about much more than just giving away property. It is an act of love and kindness, with the ultimate goal of providing for the future financial security of your loved ones. At Doane & Doane, our Wills and Trusts Attorneys West Palm Beach help people plan for retirement, make provisions for loved ones, figure out future child support, and minimize tax liability. Experienced wills and trusts attorneys know which tools to use to get the best results for their clients. Our lawyers can help you determine which tools are best suited to your specific circumstances.
When it comes to probate matters, such as the formal administration of an estate, Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys at Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates. Notably, the founding partners of Doane & Doane are board-certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys. With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trust and estates.