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Published: Mar 3, 2022
Updated: May 24, 2023
A will is a document that highlights your wishes regarding the distribution of your properties.
If you die without a will, the court will determine the distribution of your properties.
The best way to prepare a will is through the help of an attorney.
A lawyer ensures that you draft a valid and legally binding will.
A will is a legal document that gives direction regarding the distribution of your property upon death. It protects your wishes and hands down your real estate, personal property, and cash to people or organizations that you want.
Creating a will is an integral part of your real estate planning. However, the formal requirements for a last will and testament vary depending on the specific state’s laws. For example, under Florida law, a will:
Must be written by a competent individual. The testator must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor and of sound mind
Must be in writing. Oral declarations aren’t considered valid in Florida
Doesn’t need standardized documentation or official terminology
Must be signed by the testator in the presence of a minimum of two witnesses. The witnesses must also sign in the presence of the testator
Can be revoked or amended
Can be contested
You can choose to leave a portion of your property to your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, or a favorite charity.
It’s advisable to put a will in place once you start building wealth or have dependents. There are several things that you can do with a will, including:
Highlight who will get your property when you die: This is the primary reason to draft a will. Without a will, the government will decide for you.
Name an executor: An executor is an individual who will be in charge of your real estate when you die. If you don’t nominate one, the state will choose one on your behalf.
Identify a guardian: You can name a guardian who will take care of your kids if you die.
Nominate a property manager to manage your children’s inheritance: All property left to children must be taken care of by an adult.
A will can be a backup for a living trust: You might need a backup will to cover any property not included in the Living Trust.
A last will and testament isn’t mandatory but not having one could cost your loved ones more. And even worse, your wishes might not be fulfilled once you die.
If you die without a written last will and testament, the state will distribute your assets following Florida’s intestacy law. The court will prioritize closest relatives, typically your children and spouse, when deciding on who gets a share of your property. And if you don’t have children or a spouse, your parents and grandchildren will be your heirs.
The state may also consider other relatives such as siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and your partner’s relatives.
If you aren’t related to anyone by blood or marriage, your property will be considered state property.
You can change or revoke your will whenever you wish. You can do this by:
Canceling, burning, tearing, destroying, obliterating, or defacing your last will and testament yourself.
Appointing someone to revoke the will on your behalf, in your presence.
Creating a new will or amendment (codicil) that includes contradictory terms or revokes the previous will.
Generally, the best way to change your will is to revoke it and write a new one. But if you are only making minor changes, you can use a codicil.
In the event of a divorce, Florida law revokes any information in your will that names your spouse as a beneficiary or personal representative. However, this law doesn’t apply if you highlight in your divorce decree or will that divorce shouldn’t affect the details in your last will and testament.
Although laws on how to create a will differ by state and city, there are typically three ways to make a will:
Write down your final wishes yourself
Answer some questions online to generate a will
Hire an attorney to handle the task for you
Hiring a lawyer to prepare your will is the best option; they are experts in the field and could guide you when making significant decisions.
As stated earlier, dying without a will means leaving it up to the state to determine who will inherit your estate. But would you want the courts to make this significant decision for you? Like most people, you would probably prefer to do it yourself. Below are reasons why you should hire a lawyer to help you write a will:
Someone may argue that accessing the legal requirements for last will and testament online is possible. However, you should note that statutes governing last will and testament keep changing. Therefore, without legal knowledge and experience, you can never be sure if the details you add to your will conform to Florida law requirements.
Simply put, an attorney can confirm if how you intend to distribute your property is allowed by state laws. For instance, your lawyer will answer a question like;
Can you reward one child with more property than the rest?
If you favor one child at the expense of the others, can your other kids contest the will?
What are the consequences if you sign your will in the absence of witnesses?
Do you need to make changes if you and your partner file a divorce?
You need an attorney to clarify that the content of your will and its execution match up to the legal requirements -this will save your dependants unnecessary court battles with a third party contesting your will following your death.
Remember that not all assets you own can be transferred to your beneficiaries following your death.
For example, if you jointly own a property with another person, it’s apparent that you cannot dispose of all the shares since you are a co-owner. But can you include your share of the property in the will? Well, the answer depends on various factors. But, again, your lawyer is in a better decision to advise on the way forward.
Other common questions that a lawyer can answer regarding the type of properties to add in your will include:
If you are a Trust beneficiary, can you transfer the benefits of the Trust to your loved ones?
Can you add the proceeds of your insurance policies to your will?
How and when can you dispose of the insurance proceeds in your will?
Which factors determine whether or not you can include the insurance policy in your will?
The answers to all these complex questions require the input of a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer.
Although rare, some people forget to include their loved ones in their will. A lawyer can ensure that you add all the necessary details and have all your beneficiaries in your will.
Your lawyer can also answer questions on who you can include or exclude in your will.
If your children are minors, your attorney can give you directions on nominating a qualified guardian. Other queries a lawyer can help you with include:
Can you select your executor as the legal custodian of your children?
Is it legal to give your children property on the condition that they join college?
Can your children inherit your estate on the condition that they start a family first?
Besides the distribution of properties, there are other significant details that you should highlight in your will -For instance, you executor, payment of the executor, debts, your pet custodian, and so much more.
Only a lawyer can answer these questions and help you make informed decisions about your asset dispositions. In addition, when working with a lawyer, you can be confident that your last will and testament will be loophole-free.
Your relatives or other people close to you can contest your will if they aren’t satisfied with the distribution of your property. Fortunately, a lawyer can help you ensure that they don’t have any reason for contesting your will.
For instance, if you have several ex-wives, your lawyer will guide you on whether you should include them in your will or not, the value of the property they deserve and sealing all the loopholes to ensure that they don’t contest your will.
Your will can be vulnerable to challenge, particularly if you have several ex-wives and partners. And if one of them manages to contest your will successfully, the court will make changes, which may not conform with your wishes. To avoid such a scenario, seek the advice of an attorney when preparing your will.
One of the crucial requirements of a will, according to Florida law, is that an individual must write it with a sound mind.
But how can you prove that you know who your heirs are and what properties you own? What if you fall ill or sustain severe injuries that affect your mental state or intellectual capacity? Will these changes impact the validity of your will? Your lawyer can answer all these questions and guide you as you prepare a valid will.
Your will includes your wishes and the last thing you want to be done by the people you leave behind. Please seek professional help to ensure that it’s done perfectly and conforms to the legal requirement.
Looking for an estate planning attorney? Contact Easler Law today!
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