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Does a will Need to be Notarized in Florida?

Feb 9, 2022 | Last Will & Testament Legal Blogs | Elder Law P.A

Making a will is the best plan to have your assets distributed per your wishes. If you don’t make a will, there will be no document that lays out what happens to your assets upon your death. This is not a situation you want to leave for others to solve. Does a will need to be notarized in Florida? The short answer is no, but it is recommended and could be useful in some circumstances. Read on for more information about making a will.

Making a will in Florida is not a complex process; however, for everything about your will to be legal and straightforward, there are rules you should know about. It is highly recommended that you consult an experienced lawyer to assist you for these reasons. Consider the following when planning your will.

  1. Make a list of all your assets, including your bank accounts, real estate, investments, cash, life insurance policy, etc.
  2. Determine what assets you need to specify in your will.
  3. Determine who will be your beneficiaries. State the percentage each beneficiary will get so that there are no arguments later.
  4. Select a personal representative (executor) to manage your estate.
  5. If you have small children (younger than age 18), select a guardian.
  6. Write your will. It should preferably be typed.
  7. Have it signed in front of at least two witnesses.
  8. Store the will in a safe place, hand it to your lawyer, executor, or a trusted friend.

WHO SHOULD BE MY EXECUTOR?

The personal representative or executor is the individual who will be responsible for managing your wishes as stated in your will. You can name one or several individuals to be the executor(s) but they have to meet the following criteria according to Florida law:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a sound mind
  • Be physically capable of carrying out the duties of an executor
  • Has no prior convictions of a felony
  • Be a Florida resident
  • Be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption

Out-of-state individuals can be your executor, but because Florida estate laws can be complex, it is best to speak to an attorney for advice.

IS A WILL MADE OUTSIDE OF FLORIDA ACCEPTABLE?

Florida law does accept a will that has been executed in another state, or even from another country. As long as the will is valid in that state or country, it will be valid in the Sunshine State.

DOES ONE NEED A LAWYER TO PREPARE A WILL IN FLORIDA?

In some circumstances, you do not need a lawyer to prepare a will in Florida. Today, there are templates available online which tell you exactly how to prepare a will. These online kits can be sufficient if you have a simple will, limited assets, and one or no beneficiaries. But if you have several beneficiaries and significant assets, it is highly recommended you consult with an elder care lawyer. For example, if you think your children may fight over the assets or that your ex-wife may demand certain assets after your death, then it is important to speak to a lawyer on how to prepare your will.

REQUIREMENTS FOR MAKING A WILL IN FLORIDA

What are the requirements for a will to be valid in Florida? The requirements to make a will in Florida include the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor.
  • Must be mentally alert and of a sound mind.
  • If the will is an oral statement or holographic (handwritten), then it must be witnessed before it is legally accepted in the Sunshine state.
  • Florida does accept wills that are made in a digital format.

SIGNING YOUR WILL

  1. To make the will official, it must be signed and acknowledged in the presence of two witnesses.
  2. The will should, in general, be signed at the end of the text.
  3. Both witnesses must sign the will in your presence and in the presence of each other.
  4. The witnesses can be anyone over the age of 14 if they are considered mentally sound.
  5. The witnesses should preferably not be your beneficiaries, but independent third-party individuals so as to keep the process as transparent as possible.
  6. If there are multiple pages to the will, each page must be numbered and initialized by you and the witnesses.
  7. Do not forget to date the will.
  8. Does a will need to be notarized in Florida? No, unless you want to include and attach a “self-proving” affidavit to your will. It is another step you can take to make sure your will is seen as authentic and that there are no problems with it after you are gone.

What are the requirements for a will to be valid in Florida? For all the above reasons, you can see why it would be better to have a lawyer assist in the process of making a will. Someone experienced who can guide you would definitely be an asset.

SHOULD YOUR WILL BE NOTARIZED?

Does a will have to be notarized in Florida? The simple answer is no. A Florida will does not have to be notarized to make it legal. However, because probate is almost always necessary in Florida, it is highly recommended that the will be notarized. Florida law does permit people to make their will “self-proving” and that does require notarization.

WHAT IS A “SELF-PROVING” WILL?

A “self-proving” statement is a statement sworn before a notary (also called an affidavit) that is attached to the will. It must be signed by the witnesses and the testator. The affidavit will attest to the validity of the will. However, Florida law allows you to make the will “self-proving” but one does have to go to a notary. Both the testator and the witnesses need to go to the notary and sign the affidavit in front of the notary that proves your identity and that you know that you are signing/witnessing a will. Having a self-proving will makes the probate process easier because all Florida courts will accept the will without calling upon the witnesses who signed it.

CAN I NAME A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE IN MY WILL?

It is highly recommended that you name someone to be the personal representative or executor of your will. This individual will then ensure that the instructions or provisions stated in the will be carried out per your wishes. If you do not name a personal representative, the probate court will usually appoint someone to take on that responsibility.

CAN MY WILL BE CHANGED OR RESCINDED?

Yes, in Florida, you can change or rescind your will at any time. At some point, you may wish to make changes to your will. If the changes are minor or simple additions, you can add an addendum, which is known as a codicil. But if you wish to make major changes, then it is best to nullify the first will and make a new will altogether. In any case, if you make any changes to the will, you still need to go through the same formalities as when making an original will.

For example, if you decide to divorce but have already made a will naming your spouse as one of the beneficiaries, you may wish to remove that spouse. According to Florida law, after the divorce, the law will automatically remove any wordings in your will stating that you have left property to your spouse or named him or her to be your personal representative. This rule does not apply unless you have specifically mentioned in the will or the divorce decree that the separation should not affect the provisions stated in your will. However, it is best to consult with an estate lawyer for assistance in such complex matters.

The revocation or changing of the will can be done in the following ways:

  • Tear, burn, deface, or destroy the will by yourself.
  • You can ask someone else to destroy or burn your will, but it has to be done in front of you.
  • Even if you do not destroy the first will and decide to make a second will, automatically according to Florida law, the first will is negated and would no longer be pertinent.

CONCLUSION

Does a will need to be notarized in Florida? What are the requirements for a will to be valid in Florida? It is important to understand that, in Florida, there are laws that govern how to create and execute a will. One has to meet the specific requirements for the content, format, and grammar for the will to be valid in Florida. If the will-maker (testator) does not follow these guidelines, the court may consider the will to be partially or totally void. To avoid mistakes in your will, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney. These professionals can help guide you in the preparation of a will. The lawyers at Elder Care, P.A. manage a variety of documentation for seniors. It is their passion to ensure that wills are legal and accurate so you can rest easier knowing that your estate will be taken care of after you’ve passed. Call them today at 1-561-588-7512.

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