All About Wills
Jacksonville Wills Attorney and Lawyer Provides Information on Florida WillsThe Jacksonville wills attorney and lawyer with The Coleman Law Firm has more than thirty years experience providing wills based estate planning. We have provided literally thousands of wills in Florida. The proper preparation of a last will and testament in Florida requires knowledge of Florida’s wills statute, the Florida intestacy statute, and the Florida probate code. When you need a Florida wills and trusts lawyer, you can count on our estate planning law firm to provide you with responsive service at reasonable legal fees. The following information about wills in Florida is designed to provide you with general knowledge of the Florida law concerning wills, and help you develop a basic understanding of how wills work and what is necessary to have a valid will. Though there are many sources on the Internet or otherwise to find do it yourself wills, we strongly encourage you to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to help you develop an estate plan that is designed specifically for you and your family circumstances. There are many statutes and cases that impact wills and estate planning. An experienced Jacksonville wills attorney can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of do it yourself planning, and help you ensure that your estate plan is properly designed and implemented for the best results for you and your loved ones. If you need an experienced Jacksonville wills lawyer (in Jacksonville or the Beaches, Orange Park, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Beach, Amelia Island, or Fernandina Beach) call our estate planning law firm to schedule your appointment with our Jacksonville wills lawyer, toll free at 866-510-9099 or in Jacksonville at 904-448-1969, or email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.com.
Do You Have A Will?Frequently Asked Questions about Wills in Florida
WHAT IS A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT?
a. You, the maker of the last will and testament in Florida (called the testator), must be at least 18 years old.
b. You must be of sound mind at the time you sign your last will and testament in Florida.
c. Your last will and testament must be written.
d. Your will must be witnessed and notarized in the special manner provided by Florida law for wills.
e. Under Florida law it is necessary to follow exactly the formalities required for the signing of a will when you make a will. A Florida estate planning lawyer or Jacksonville wills attorney can assist you with ensuring that the formalities required by Florida wills law for making a valid last will and testament are properly followed.
f. To be effective, when you make a will, your will must be proved in and allowed by the Florida probate court. A “self-proved” will allows the Florida probate court to immediately allow the will’s admission into probate. A Florida wills lawyer or estate planning attorney can assist you in self-proving your last will and testament. If you need the assistance of a Florida estate planning lawyer, please contact our Jacksonville wills attorney for estate planning at 904-448-1969, toll free at 866-510-9099, or email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.com.No last will and testament in Florida becomes final until the death of the testator, and it may be changed or added to by the testator by creating a new will or by a “codicil,” which is simply an addition or amendment executed with the same legal formalities as a last will and testament. A will’s terms cannot be changed by writing something in or crossing something out after the will is executed. In fact, under Florida probate law, writing on the will after its execution may invalidate part of the will or all of it.
WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED BY A MAKING A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT?
a. When you make a will, you decide who gets your property instead of the Florida intestacy law making the choice for you.
b. You may name the personal representative (executor) of your will as you choose, provided the person or institution you have named can qualify under Florida wills and trusts law. A personal representative is one who manages a probate estate, and may be either an individual or a bank or trust company, subject to certain limitations.
c. A testamentary trust may be created when writing your last will and testament whereby the probate estate or a portion of the probate estate will be kept intact with income distributed or accumulated for the benefit of members of the family or other beneficiaries. A Jacksonville wills attorney can show you how to draft a will to include a testamentary trust. Assets left to minors (under 18 years of age) can be cared for without the expense of proceedings in probate court for supervised guardianship of property of a minor child.
d. Real estate and other probate assets may be sold without probate court approval, if your last will and testament adequately authorizes it.
e. You may make gifts, effective at or after your death, to charity.
f. You decide who bears any tax burden, rather than the Florida probate law making that decision for you.
g. When you make a will, a Florida guardian may be named for your minor children, rather than leaving that decision up to the probate judge to make, or having family members fight over who will be your children’s guardian.
If you would like to have our Jacksonville wills attorney help you make things easier for your family when you die, please call our office to schedule an appointment at 904-448-1969, or toll free at 866-510-9099, or email us at Info@TheColemanLawFirm.com.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THERE IS NO LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT?
MUST A PERSON LEAVE A CHILD AT LEAST ONE DOLLAR?
HOW LONG IS A LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT GOOD?
DOES A WILL INCREASE PROBATE EXPENSES?
MAY A PERSON DISPOSE OF HIS OR HER PROPERTY IN ANY WAY HE OR SHE WISHES BY MAKING A WILL?
- Except in certain very specific circumstances an exempt Florida homestead (that is, the residence and adjoining lands owned by a person who is survived by a spouse or minor child, up to one-half acre within limits of an incorporated city or town or up to 160 acres outside those limits);
- A life estate: property owned only for the life of the owner;
- Any property owned jointly with another person or persons with right of survivorship (a tenancy by the entireties, which is limited to joint ownership between a husband and wife, would be one of these, as would a tenancy in common, and a joint tenancy with right of survivorship).
ARE ESTATES BY ENTIRETIES OR JOINT TENANCY WITH RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP SUBSTITUTES FOR A WILL?
IS A LIFE INSURANCE PROGRAM A SUBSTITUTE FOR A WILL?
IS A TRUST A SUBSTITUTE FOR A WILL?
DO YOU HAVE TO GO TO COURT TO PROBATE A WILL?
CAN A WILL REDUCE ESTATE TAXES?
WHO SHOULD PREPARE A WILL?
SOME SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING WILLS
a. Marriage does not cancel a will in Florida, but a spouse from a marriage that occurs after the execution of a will may receive the same portion of your estate that he or she would have received had you died with no will (at least one-half).
b. If you have moved to Florida from another state, it is wise to have your last will and testament reviewed by a Florida estate planning lawyer in order to be sure that it is properly executed according to the laws of Florida, that the witnesses are readily available to prove your will in Florida, and that your personal representative is qualified to serve in Florida.What is the effect on my estate planning documents if I move?
c. Before your will is effective to dispose of your property, it must be proved in the Florida probate court. If the will is self-proving and otherwise valid, it may be admitted to probate without further proof. If the will is not self-proving, it generally must be proved by the oath of one of the witnesses. The oath must be given before a circuit judge, clerk of court, or a commissioner specially appointed by the probate court for that purpose. (Under certain circumstances, the probate court may permit the will to be proved by other means permitted by law.) A will can be made self-proving either at the time of its execution or later, which saves the time and expense of locating a witness and obtaining his or her oath after your death. For your will to be made self-proving, you must acknowledge the will before an officer authorized to administer oaths; the witnesses must make affidavits before the officer; and the officer must evidence the acknowledgment and affidavits by a certificate attached to or following the will. An appropriate form of certificate is prescribed by Florida law. The self-proving procedure is in addition to the normal execution and witnessing of the will, not in place of it.
d. No matter how perfect a will may be prepared for you, unless it is properly executed in strict compliance with the laws of Florida, the will may be entirely void. Be sure that you execute your will in the presence of your wills and trust attorney, who knows exactly how and in what order the will should be signed.Is signing a will a formal process?
e. Every person owning property who wishes to exercise control in the disposition of that property when he or she dies, should make a will regardless of the value of the property. Of course, the larger the estate the greater the estate tax consequences and therefore the more important effective estate planning becomes.
f. The following additional legal documents and forms should be considered for signing when you make your will:
• Living Will: Florida Statutes now provide for a written declaration by an individual specifying directions as to use of life-prolonging procedures and end of life decisions. Though there is a statutory form for this document, your estate planning lawyer can help you determine whether to provide for additional directions and guidance beyond what is included in the statutory form.What is a power of attorney?
- Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a legal document that can assist in handling the property and financial affairs of a person who has become incapacitated without having to open a guardianship proceeding in probate court. This is especially valuable for paying the bills and protecting the assets of an incapacitated person. Like other estate planning documents, the durable power of attorney should be drafted by your estate planning lawyer so that the document accomplishes your objectives, and protects you at the same time. When consulting with your estate planning lawyer, be sure to explore the difference between the immediate power of attorney that takes effect immediately upon you signing it and delivering it to your attorney in fact, and the springing power of attorney that does not become effective until a defined event, such as your incapacity.
- Health Care Surrogate: Florida law now allows individuals to designate a person to make health care decisions for them when the individual may not be able to do so. Included in this power of attorney for health care or designation of health care surrogate, is the power to decide when to withdraw medical procedures and treatments.
- Pre-Need Guardian Designation: Florida law allows you to designate a person, or persons, who could be appointed legal guardian over your person or your property, or both, should you become incapacitated, or over your children should you become incapacitated and upon your death. If you fail to designate a guardian, the Probate Court will do so for you, if and when it becomes necessary.