Florida Wills

A Florida Will is a legal document which takes effect after your death. It is also known as a Last Will and Testament or a Last Will. It is your final say about matters that you leave behind, including what happens to your assets, your remains and to your minor children.

Should I make a Florida Will?

Yes. Everyone aged eighteen years or older should write a Will. Even if you have no property or assets, a Florida Last Will and Testament can eliminate many problems which can otherwise arise. For example, if you have minor children, the Will is the only way to legally appoint a guardian (this should be done even if their other parent is still alive and actively involved in the children’s lives). What if something happens to both of you? Other reasons are that a Florida Will can solve arguments about how to dispose of your remains and the cost of probate can be higher if you die without a Will (intestate).

What can I include in my Florida Will?

A Florida Last Will can be used for the following:

  • to designate an executor (the person who manages the probate process and distribution of your estate). You should name a successor executor in case the first named person in unable or unwilling to act. If you do not make a designation, then the order of priority is set down by state law and could end up being a stranger;
  • to leave specific bequests. This may be a sum of money or a specific item of property such as a ring or family heirloom;
  • to ensure your assets pass to the appropriate persons in accordance with your wishes. Make sure you name successor beneficiaries in your Florida Last Will and Testament. For example, if you leave a share to your children, do grandchildren receive an inheritance if their parent dies before you?
  • As mentioned above, to designate a guardian for minors; and perhaps
  • To ensure your pet is provided for by creating a pet trust.

What is a joint Florida Will?

This type of Will is usually made by a husband and wife. It requires that property be distributed in a certain way regardless of who dies first. The survivor cannot change his/her Last Will and Testament without risking a Will contest.

Entering into such an arrangement is useful, especially where stepchildren are involved. Couples often leave the whole estate to each other (which can leave children destitute if the surviving spouse remarries). Joint wills are used to avoid the surviving spouse being influenced to disinherit the children.

Making a joint Florida Last Will is not recommended where large estates are involved. This can impact on the ability to reduce tax liability.

Can I avoid Probate?

Having a Florida Will does not necessarily mean your executor will be required to probate the Will under the full probate rules. On the other hand, not having a legal Florida Last Will and Testament doesn’t mean you avoid probate. Your assets may still be subject to the court process (which could turn out more costly than if you die with a Will).

Assets that are not subject to probate include property you hold jointly with another (with right of survivorship), beneficiary designations (such as life insurance policy where a beneficiary is named) and assets that are part of a revocable living trust.

As to whether it’s better to use a revocable living trust, you should seek the advices of an attorney. However, note that even if you have a living trust, you will still need a “pour over” Florida Will to ensure all your assets are covered by the trust at the time of your death.  If your probate assets are limited, it may not be viable to create a revocable trust, since Florida has simplified probate procedures for small estates.

How much does a Florida Will cost?

It depends on the complexity of your affairs. A simple Will can cost from a hundred dollars to a few hundred dollars. If you have a large estate, the cost will probably be around several thousand dollars. Do it yourself Will forms can also be purchased for around $20 to $50. However, there are risks involved with using these forms, usually by not being completed or signed correctly or by the testator including vague language. Having an attorney to draft your Florida Will is highly recommended, especially where large estates are concerned.

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