Wills In Florida: An Overview Of The Law
At Korshak & Associates, P.A., we are committed to helping individuals and families plan for the future and obtain peace of mind. In our estate planning practice, we take the time to listen to clients, understand their goals and create estate plans that are tailored to meet their needs.
One of the many ways that we help our clients is through the creation of standard wills. A validly executed will is essential in distributing your assets to your intended beneficiaries in the manner of your choosing. By creating your will and taking other vital estate planning measures, you can put your mind at ease. Knowing that you have planned for the future and taken steps to protect your loved ones is always a tremendous source of relief.
Experienced Representation And Personalized Service
Estate planning is very personal in nature. Your estate plan should reflect your needs and wishes. Our attorneys will take the time to listen to you carefully, help you understand your options and draft your will in a manner that carries out your wishes.
With more than 60 combined years of experience, our attorneys can provide the knowledgeable representation that you require. We are also committed to providing affordable legal services. A standard (simple) will for an individual or married couple is very affordable.
What Happens If The Will Is Lost?
A will details instructions for the distribution of an individual’s property, which are to be carried out upon that individual’s death. When someone dies, family members and beneficiaries look to a will for guidance.
But what happens when the will cannot be found?
This is not an uncommon scenario. Florida law addresses the issue of a lost will. The process varies depending on whether a copy of the will is available or no copy exists.
- No original copy of the will is provided: If a copy of the will is provided, the content can be validated by one disinterested witness.
- Lost or destroyed will: An interested person can provide the terms of a will that is lost or destroyed, provided that the content of the will is validated by two disinterested people.
Proving that a will is valid when the will has been lost or destroyed is difficult. The interested party must identify two disinterested people to vouch for the validity of the will. If you are in this situation, you may wish to speak to an attorney about your legal options.
If a photocopy of the will is available (or if the will is available in another format), the interested party just has to locate one person to vouch for the validity of the will.
After the death of a loved one, it is important to locate the will as soon as possible. If the will cannot be located, talk to a probate administration attorney.
Personal Representatives In Florida
The person appointed as the personal representative has many tasks to fulfill following the decedent’s death. Some of those tasks include:
- Paying outstanding debts
- Notifying creditors of decedent’s death
- Filing decedent’s tax returns
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
Who, exactly, can be named a personal representative in Florida?
- An individual who is a resident of Florida or someone who is related to the decedent – either a spouse, parent, sibling, child or other close relative. This individual must be 18 or older and must never have been convicted of a felony crime. Additionally, this individual must be considered mentally and physically able to perform the duties of a personal representative.
- A bank
- A trust company
If no one is named personal representative in a will, the judge will appoint one. This is typically the decedent’s spouse. But if the decedent was unmarried, the heirs may choose the personal representative.
Florida Living Wills And Health Care Surrogates
When people think about estate planning, they typically think about wills, trusts and other estate planning instruments that are used to distribute property to intended beneficiaries. While many estate planning instruments deal with the distribution of property, living wills and health care surrogates have very different purposes.
A living will is a document that instructs doctors and other medical professionals about your preferences regarding the use of feeding tubes, respirators and other life-sustaining measures in the event that you become incapacitated. A living will is an invaluable part of any estate plan because it clarifies your wishes and minimizes the likelihood of family conflicts.
A health care surrogate enables you to designate a person who has the authority to make medical and health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation. Just as a living will can minimize the risk of unnecessary family conflicts, a health care surrogate may also help family members avoid conflicts by clearly naming the person that you want to make medical decisions on your behalf.
What Can Be Included In A Living Will?
There’s no one right way to draw up a living will. It’s useful to determine what you want your customized document to say because it may have to function as your voice if you cannot give your consent in the event of illness or injury. Living wills may discuss topics such as:
- If and when to perform resuscitation if you go into cardiac arrest
- If and when to intubate you in order to deliver liquids and nutrients directly to your stomach if you cannot eat or swallow
- If and when to administer antibiotics if you are facing a serious infection in a weakened state
- The administration of palliative care, such as providing pain medications or being placed in hospice care
In many cases, these instructions are created in conjunction with naming a power of attorney who can carry out those instructions should the situation call for it.
Challenging A Will
Will contests are highly complex and require the attention of knowledgeable probate attorneys. If you need help challenging a will or if you need help upholding the validity of a will, you can find the experienced representation you require at Korshak & Associates, P.A.
Courts give considerable deference to written wills and often uphold the validity of wills. However, wills may be challenged on several grounds, including:
- Undue influence: Due to age, illness or other conditions, the decedent (the individual who has died) may have been susceptible to the undue influence of a third party. If so, the will could be subject to challenge.
- Duress or incompetence: Was the decedent subjected to extreme pressure or unable to think clearly due to dementia, mental illness or another serious medical condition? If so, the will could be subject to challenge.
- Improper execution: If the will was not validly signed, witnessed and executed, it may be challenged.
- Fraud: Was the decedent tricked into making changes to their will? Did they sign a written document without understanding that it was a will or change key provisions of a will as a result of fraud? If so, the will may be subject to challenge.
Having an attorney draft your will is always a good idea. There are forms available on the internet, but having your will drafted by a professional is the best way to ensure that your estate plan carries out your wishes and protects your family.
When You Have Been Wrongfully Accused Of Influencing The Will
Our lawyers understand that internal family disputes can turn into legal battles over Mom or Dad’s will, especially if one or more family members have been estranged. And, in many cases, false accusations can be made. As such, we also represent those who have been wrongfully accused of influencing a mentally unfit parent in the creation or modification of a will.
Was Your Family Member Manipulated Into Changing Their Will?
If your loved one was the victim of undue influence and subsequently changed their will, we at Korshak & Associates, P.A., can help. We have been providing legal services to residents of central Florida for many years and have a solid track record of obtaining favorable outcomes in will contests.
Whether your family member has passed away or is still living, we can help. Our lawyers will begin the investigation by interviewing witnesses, assembling a timeline of the will creation and subsequent changes, and looking into any inconsistent facts. We will help you determine if your undue influence claim meets any of the factors necessary for proving illegal manipulation or coercion, such as:
- The testator has a medical or mental problem that could make them vulnerable to undue influence.
- The influencer lied to the testator.
- The testator was kept isolated from family members or close friends.
- The revised will was inconsistent with prior plans.
- The beneficiary saw the will before the changes were made to their benefit.
- The beneficiary participated in the drafting of the document.
- The beneficiary instructed an attorney in the will creation or change.
- The beneficiary was present when the will was executed.
There are numerous additional factors that a court may consider when hearing your case. Because each claim involves a different set of circumstances, it is best to contact our law firm to discuss the specifics of your matter.
You Are More Than A Number
We offer our complete attention to estate planning matters of every stripe. We treat you like a person with needs, like a neighbor with family. This is one of the most important documents you may ever have, and we will be there with you while you craft it.