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How to Do a Simple Will in Florida

Apr 13, 2022 | Estate Planning Legal Blogs | Elder Law P.A

Before one learns how to create a simple will in Florida, it is important to know Florida’s laws regarding wills. The sunshine state has specific requirements concerning the format of a will. Knowing the laws will not only protect your family but also ensure that your estate will be transferred to your beneficiaries as you wish without any problems.

When writing a simple will in Florida, the testator (person who writes the will) is given the opportunity to ensure that his or her spouse, children, and any significant others, including pets, are taken care of after death. Further, one may opt to leave the estate to a charity or make a gift to any hospital if one wishes.

It is important to know that a living will is different from a last will and testament. The former provides detailed instructions on the management of your health should you become unable to make decisions or become incapacitated. Under Florida laws, a living will is also known as an advanced directive and takes effect while the person is alive. The last will and testament, on the other hand, does not go into effect until the testator has died.

Do I Need to Make a Will in Florida?

In general, no law states that all Florida citizens need to have a will, but if you have any estate or assets and there is no will, the state laws of intestacy will govern your assets. What this means is that the courts decide who gets your estate, and this may be far different from what you would have wanted. Hence, if you want your estate to go to a specific person(s), then it is highly recommended you know how to make a simple will.

The other benefit of knowing how to do a simple will in Florida is that it permits you to select an individual (executor or personal representative) to administer your estate after your death. The executor will be responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in the will.

The simple will can state many things in the document but the most important is how your estate will be distributed following your death. The will usually includes things like cash, vehicles, business holdings, jewelry, and vacation homes. Before the terms of the will can be agreed upon, the simple will has to be registered with the local Florida court within 10 days after the decedent has died. Only the original will has to be registered with the court. None of the estate can be distributed in Florida without first undergoing probate.

What if I Die Before Making a Will?

If you die without making a will, this is known as dying intestate, and the state laws governing intestacy will decide who your estate will go to. In such cases, the court will ensure the distribution of your assets based on lineal descendants. What this means is that the spouse is generally the first to get the estate. However, if there are children, stepchildren, etc., then there are rules as to what percentage each will get and so on. It is possible that your estate could be distributed to distant family members even though they may never have interacted with you.

Therefore, if you want your assets to go only to your loved ones and control the distribution, it is important to know how to do a simple will in Florida.

What Assets Should Not Be Listed in a Simple Will?

While it is important to know how to create a simple will and list things in your will that you want to be distributed after your death, it is also important to know what you should not list in a will.

  1. Joint tenancy property: Your house should not be included in a will because there are already laws that govern joint tenancy property. Automatically when you die, the home goes to your spouse; this is the law and nothing you state in a will can change that.
  2. Life insurance: If you have a life insurance policy, it will have a named beneficiary that may be your spouse or children. Therefore, when you die, the proceeds of the life insurance policy will automatically go to the named person(s).
  3. Joint accounts: Any money that you have in a joint account will automatically go to the surviving joint account holder and does not need to be listed in your will.
  4. Pension benefits: In most cases, pension benefits will automatically go to the surviving spouse.
  5. Business partnerships are usually not included in the will because you need to first get consent from the other partner(s).
  6. If you do not own the item, it should not be included in the will, and this includes leased properties and cars.

What Should Be included In a Simple Will?

  • Include personal information, like your full name, date of birth, and current address. Also, include any other names that you might be known by.
  • Name of your spouse and children.
  • Clearly state that you are writing a will and use legal terms. A common sentence used in a simple will is, “This is my last will and testament.” In addition, state the purpose of the will and that you have the intention of passing your estate to your beneficiaries after your death.
  • List your assets and be specific. Do not just say, “I am giving my money to my children.” You need to clearly state how much each child will get so that there are no problems or issues later. If you state that you are giving away your car, you should always state to whom.
  • It is also recommended that you name a contingent beneficiary in the will, who will then be the recipient of the assets if the primary beneficiary dies or is unable to receive them for whatever reason.
  • However, be mindful of the laws of inheritance. While you may want to give away your home to a friend, by law the home usually goes to the spouse, irrespective of whom you name in the will.

Appoint a Personal Representative

When learning how to do a simple will in Florida, you will need to appoint a personal representative (aka executor) who will carry out your wishes stated in the will after your death. A personal representative will not only distribute your estate to your beneficiaries but also file a final tax return and settle any unpaid debts/liens. The personal representative can be a family member, lawyer, beneficiary, business colleague, or even a friend. Finally, you can state how much the executor should be paid; the money will come out of the estate.

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

Florida is one of the few states that permits an electronic will. While making an electronic will is new, it still has to follow Florida will guidelines. The most important thing to remember is that the signature of the testator has to be witnessed online by two people. Electronic wills are best created in the presence of a lawyer. Once the testator has signed it online, it can then be forwarded immediately by the lawyer to the two witnesses. Today, an electronic will can be signed online, but the entire process has to be done in one setting at the same time.

CONCLUSION

Knowing how to create a simple will and making that will into a legal document is important because it ensures that your loved ones will get their share of your estate. If you have never made a will, the best advice is to speak to an estate lawyer for assistance. This way you can avoid mistakes and have peace of mind. The friendly, courteous, and professional staff at Elder Law, P.A. will be happy to assist you. Call them today at 1-561-933-5077 to get started.

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