Most people know they can use their will to distribute their property after they pass. However, if you want to be sure your wishes will be carried out, you need a valid will. Every state, including Florida, has laws that set out specific requirements for a valid will. Lawmakers and courts dealing with wills generally aim to prevent potential fraud or other inappropriate actions by other parties to influence the will.
A will must be in writing
Florida does not acknowledge oral or holographic wills. A testator may make an oral will by speaking the terms or create a holographic will by writing it out completely by hand with no witness signatures. Some other states do recognize such wills.
Testator needs mental capacity
To make a will, you must be older than 18 or emancipated if younger. You must also be of sound mind. Generally, this requirement means the testator must have the mental capacity to understand what the property is, who the beneficiaries are and the meaning and consequences of the will's provision. Contesting parties may not need a formal diagnosis to prove incapacity. Often, parties attacking a will claim a lack of mental capacity. If you have reason to believe some of your will's provisions can potentially cause conflict, you may want to safeguard yourself from doubts about your capacity.
Presence of valid witnesses
A valid will also needs two witnesses who saw the testator sign it. The witnesses must also sign the will. Witnesses and testator must be physically present together at the time of signing. Florida courts have seen considerable litigation around the issue of what counts as presence. For example, having the witnesses in an adjacent room with the door open can open your will to questioning.
While Florida's requirements for a valid will seem simple on the surface, they may raise a number of issues and start a long, complicated litigation process. The best way to safeguard your wishes is to consult an experienced attorney who can help you draw up a will that reflects your wishes and complies with legal requirements.
To speak to an attorney about drafting a customized will, call Korshak & Associates, P.A., at 407-680-1471.