What are the requirements for a will to be valid?

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Anyone who has ever seen an episode of the television series “Succession” or watched “Downton Abbey” knows that writing an impenetrable will is very important. If you do not have a valid will when you die, your estate may be in Probate Court for quite a long time, and your relatives may end up fighting over the assets. According to attorney Goldberg, the State of Florida has a few requirements for determining whether or not a will is valid.

How old do you have to be to make a will?

Florida requires that the testator (creator) of the will must be at least 18 years of age. If a person is under the age of 18, their property will go to their parent or guardian. When a minor is a beneficiary of the will, they will not have legal control over the funds or property that they have inherited until they are over 18. Children who are married before the age of 18 also gain control over their money.

You Must be of Sound Mind

The senile millionaire leaving his or her estate to a person outside the family, a bum, a bimbo, or the family pet,  has become a common joke in novels and movies. Determining if someone is of sound mind when they write their will can be a bit tricky. However, there are certain general rules that apply.

A person making a will must understand what possessions they have, what a will does, and to whom they are leaving their possessions. They will not really be considered incompetent if they leave their possessions to a person of whom the family does not approve. 

The Will Must be in Writing

The Sunshine State requires that your will is in writing. Technically, it can be handwritten if a witness signs it and if it was created in the state of Florida. However, it is never a good idea to handwrite your will; you should always type.

The State of Florida does not accept wills that have been videotaped or tape-recorded. You can make a videotape of yourself telling your relatives to whom your property will go and why, but you must back it up in writing. The document must be signed by you as well as a witness. A last will and testament must also be notarized in the state of Florida.

Although it may seem like your property should go to anyone you would like it to go to, there are certain exceptions to a will. If you got married and did not modify your will to exclude or include your new spouse, the spouse will be entitled to a portion of your money. 

There are other ways of getting your property to someone without including them in your will. You can create a living trust for them, or you can simply give the property to them before you die.

 If you want to give money to a charity, you may want to do that before you die rather than willing it to them. You can also create a trust for a charity, so the funds do not have to go through probate.

 You can arrange for money in a certain bank account to be transferred to someone immediately upon your death. Ask your bank about creating a pay-on-death account. POD accounts do not have to go through probate. If you have a life insurance policy, make sure to keep the beneficiaries up to date. Life insurance will not have to go through probate.

An estate attorney can help you to create your will, write a living will and plan your estate. It is important to find an attorney who has many years of experience dealing with wealth management in Florida. They should have a great reputation with the state bar, and they should be able to provide references.

Other Estate Planning Instruments

While a will is an essential cornerstone to any estate plan, you may need to execute additional instruments to ensure that your wishes are fully executed. For instance, a power of attorney can be drafted to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event you’re incapacitated. A living will inform medical personnel and family members whether or not you want to be revived or placed on life support in the event you have a medical emergency. Discussing your situation with an estate planning attorney can help you determine what you are likely to need. 

Children’s author JK Rowling once said, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” A well-organized estate can mean that those who you leave behind remember you fondly are well cared for when you embark on whatever it is that the great beyond has to offer.



Ref number: THSI-2313

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