What is a will and why do I need one?
A will is a written document governing what is to be done with someone’s personal property after death. Florida, as well as each state, sets formal requirements to ensure a will is valid. Florida requires the maker of the will (the testator) to be at least 18 years old and of “sound mind” at time of signing the will. Also, Florida requires the will be written and signed by two (2) witnesses, as well as being notarized.
A will allows you as the testator to decide what is done with your estate. Your estate includes all your personal property and can include any land owned. Many people have specific things they want given to a particular person. For example, maybe little Susie always loved playing the piano and you want to make sure she gets grandma’s piano; a will ensures your wishes are met.
If I already have a will, how long is it valid for? And what if I want to change it?
As long as your will meets the requirements set forth by Florida Probate Codes, your will is valid until it is either revoked or a new one is drafted. There are established ways a person may revoke a previous will.
Also, should you have a will and would like to change a section, you can have a codicil made to your will. This is a change made to your will without having to rewrite the entire will. This can be if you acquired property after you wrote your will, or if you have a child born after you wrote your will. Depending on the complexity of the change, a codicil might be easier than redrafting an entire will. We work with you on figuring out what exactly you want and what is the most effective and efficient way of meeting those wants.
What happens if I die without a will?
The State of Florida, along with all other states, has set guidelines for when a person dies without a will (referred to as dying intestate). The government has done its best to determine what it believes is the simplest way to distribute one’s personal belongings and has created its own guidelines that distribute a person’s property to their family. Since the State does not know your wishes, property can only be distributed to certain relatives in a certain order. A will prevents this distribution happening in accordance with the State’s wishes, and lets you, the testator, make decisions concerning your estate. It is important to note, if family members are not found and the estate is never claimed, the property will escheat to the State, and therefore become the property of the State.