A Last Will and Testament, or “Will,” is a basic estate planning tool which, among other things, allows a person to direct the distribution of his or her assets after death. When used as part of an overall estate plan, a Will can minimize the emotional hardship your family will experience after your death and the difficulties inherent in handling your estate.
To execute a Will, Florida law requires the Testator, the person executing the Will, to be of sound mind and either 18 or more years of age, or an emancipated minor.
There are certain formalities which must be followed for a Will to be valid in Florida. These include the location and timing of the Testator’s signature and the signatures of witnesses, as well as the various acknowledgments each person must make. Many of the Will forms widely available on the Internet do not conform with Florida law and lack instructions on how to properly execute a Will.
A Will can be very simple with basic instructions for distribution of assets, payment of debts and taxes, appointment of a personal representative, and disposal of personal property. A Will can also be quite complex if there are a large number of beneficiaries, numerous assets, specific bequests, or charitable contributions or endowments. A Will’s complexity will depend in large part on the other estate planning tools used by the Testator.
Wills can also be amended or revoked in whole or in part. Under Florida law, there are certain formalities which must be followed to properly amend or revoke a Will.
Your attorney will discuss and evaluate your current financial situation and how you wish your affairs to be handled after your death. Based on those discussions your attorney will present the various options available to you and help you to devise a comprehensive estate plan.
The following is a list of basic information you should have with you when you meet with your attorney:
Copies of any previous Wills, Codicils, Amendments, Trust Agreements, Health Care Surrogates, Powers of Attorney Copies of deeds for any real property you currently own Copies of any life insurance policies Name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and social security number of your Personal Representative (Executor) List of your current assets Names and relationship to you of any person to whom you wish to give certain property or a specific amount of money, as well as the remainder of your estate Name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and social security number of your spouse and any children
Your attorney may request additional information after your initial consultation.