Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Your Last Will & Testament

sign-applicationMany otherwise successful and diligent people overlook what could be one of the largest tax-saving devices available to them during their entire lifetimes: a will. Wills are the primary document for transferring your assets upon a person’s death. It is the document in which you specify how, to whom and when you wish to have all of your earthly belongings distributed. Although this is a vital document, many people procrastinate or defer having one drafted. Consequently, many people die without the benefit of their specific instructions being carried out.

If you die without a will, you die ‘intestate’. If this occurs, your estate will be distributed according to the probate laws of the State of Florida if you reside in Florida. More than likely, this distribution will not be according to your wishes. This could also cause problems in your immediate family due to disputes over who was meant to receive what, what proceeds go to your spouse as well as any intended charitable bequests.

In drafting a will, several factors must be taken into consideration. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Specific instructions designed to distribute your estate to your intended beneficiaries.
  • Provisions for a guardian(s) to serve in your capacity if you have minor children.
  • A nomination for a personal representative or executor to carry out your wishes.

A competent attorney should be employed for the drafting of a will. While there exist many do-it-yourself products on the market which do provide presumably valid documents, there is no substitute for professional advice and sound legal counsel.

Once your will is finalized, it may be changed as you deem necessary to reflect your ever changing situation. Such changes may be based upon a birth or death in the family, a divorce, change of residence or change of intended beneficiaries. Even without a major life change, wills should be reviewed every two or three years to ensure that your intentions will, in fact, be carried out upon your death.

Common Questions of Law: Wills

In the everyday practice of law at Akerson Law Offices, common questions of law are asked by clients of the firm. A few of the most common questions which are responded to concerning wills and probate are as follows:

What are the formal requirements for a legal will in Florida?

Whoever makes a will in the State of Florida must be at least eighteen (18) years of age. Your will must be in writing. You must be of sound mind or be competent when you sign your will. A will must be witnessed in a special manner when you sign it. This requires that certain legal formalities be observed at the time of execution of the will. Finally, in order to be effective, a will must be acceptable to the Probate Court.

Can I cross out or write additional words in my will?

It is not a good idea to cross out words or add words to a will after the will has been signed and executed. If you write on the will after you have signed and executed it, you run a serious risk that some or all of the will may be determined by a Probate Court Judge to be invalid.

Why do I need a will?

Everyone needs to have a will. People with minor children need wills so that they can name a guardian for their minor children in the event of death. A will enables you to decide who gets your property. Without a will, the laws of the State of Florida decide who gets your real estate and personal property. A will also allows you to name who will manage the distribution of your estate. This party is known as the personal representative under Florida law.

Is my current will still good?

That depends. As long as your current will meets the formal requirement for a legal will in Florida, it is ‘good’ until you change or revoke it in accordance with Florida law. You can change your will as often as you wish so long as you comply with the legal requirements concerning capacity, fraud, undue influence, duress and meet the formal requirements for a will in the State of Florida. Both monetary and personal changes in your life may require a change in your will. For example, divorce, marriage, birth of children, and deaths of relatives may be a reminder to review the adequacy of your current will. In addition, tax law changes and a change in the amount or makeup of your estate may make it advisable to change your will to better serve your legal heirs.

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This website outlines general legal principles and is not intended to give you legal advice. If you have a specific question about the law, please consult an attorney.

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