Wills Lawyer in Jacksonville
Understanding Wills in Florida
It can be easy to put off creating a will, especially if you are young and reasonably healthy. However, it is never too early to protect your estate: Building a robust last will and testament is imperative to protecting you and your loved ones’ interests. Were you to unexpectedly pass away without a will in place, your property would be distributed in accordance with state law, regardless of your intentions, and a judge would likely decide who cares for your children.
When properly drafted and verified, a will can be a powerful tool to help protect your wishes following your passing. In the state of Florida, the document allows you to designate:
- A guardian to your minor children
- The recipients of your property, whether they be individuals or organizations
- A trusted individual to administer property you leave to your minor children
- A personal representative to ensure your will is honored
- Funds for funeral arrangements
In addition to traditional last will and testaments, there are also living wills, a document outlining your wishes should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions.
Our Jacksonville attorney has over 20 years of legal experience assisting Floridians draft their wills. It is never too soon to start safeguarding your future: Call (904) 712-2556 or contact us online to request a free consultation.
Finalizing Your Will
Ideally, your will should be reviewed by a qualified legal professional, like those on our Jacksonville legal team. Once you are satisfied with the designations you have made, the state of Florida requires certain conditions be met for your will to be considered legally sound.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not necessarily have to notarize your will in the state of Florida. Instead, per Fla. Stat. Ann. § 732.502, you need only acknowledge or sign your will in front of two witnesses. Those witnesses must also sign the will in front of you and each other. Choose these witnesses carefully: Try to avoid involving a witness who inherits someone in the will and thereby could have a conflict of interest down the road. Your witnesses should also know you well, as they are legally attesting you have “testament capacity,” the ability to make rational decisions about one’s property, at the time of signing. Should the validity of the will be contested, they may even be asked to offer written or in-person testimony.
You can strengthen your will with a self-acting affidavit. You still need two witnesses in addition to a notary, who will certify a sworn statement confirming everyone’s signing of the will. While obtaining a self-acting affidavit is not strictly necessary, it can be a proactive, beneficial move in situations where a will is expected to be contested. Should your will end up in probate court after you pass, your executor must take extra steps in proving its validity, which often requires locating and summoning the witnesses to your signing. An inability to locate your witnesses can result in lengthy delays and complications, preventing your wishes from being honored in a timely manner. As its name would imply, a self-proving affidavit readily confirms the validity of your will and generally avoids the delays inherent to calling witnesses.
Changing or Revoking Your Will
A wide array of life events might compel you to modify or outright revoke your will once it has already been finalized. It is essential to keep your will updated with your most present wishes, and it is not wise to delay making alterations. Consider how your will might be affected should you have another child or gain a substantial amount of property. Your will should be reflective of your life’s major changes.
Should your changes be relatively simple, you can file a “codicil,” or a document that amends your existing will, in the state of Florida. Doing so requires the same steps involving witnesses as finalizing your document, so if your alterations are substantial, it may make more sense to revoke your current will and establish a new, updated version.
Revoking a will is a fairly easy process. In Florida, you can simply destroy your current will with the invent to revoke it. You can also ask someone else to do this on your behalf, though it is wise to make the request in writing. The finalizing of a new will also automatically replaces your existing one, and any new codicils override contradictory language in older wills.
Finally, it is important to note that, in the state of Florida, legal divorce proceedings can have major, automatic impacts on your will. As soon as a court determines your marriage is no longer legal, language in your will leaving property to your spouse, or designating them as your personal representative, will not be honored. This can be circumvented by explicitly stating your desire for the language to survive a divorce proceeding, per Fla. Stat. Ann. § 732.507.
Getting Help with Your Will
We understand preparing the contents of your will is not the most pleasant exercise, but it is essential to ensuring your wishes and loved ones are protected. Our legal team at Weldon Law Group, PLLC is ready to see if we can help you make sure your will is clear, comprehensive, and legally sound.
Whether you need help drafting a will from scratch or have questions about your existing estate plan, our Jacksonville wills attorney is ready to give you the personalized attention you deserve. Dial (904) 712-2556 or contact us online for your free consultation today.
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