The statement “Where there is a will, there is a way” might be said to apply equally well to a last will and testament. A valid will ensures that the assets a person worked a lifetime to acquire are distributed to beneficiaries the owner deems worthy.
If a person dies without a valid will or trust, or in other words intestate, a Florida statute dictates how the assets are distributed. This statute, which names certain heirs as beneficiaries, is inflexible and will apply regardless of the deceased person’s desires or wishes. A person must also recognize that circumstances change, and those changes will necessitate amending or revising the will. These changes are made in a codicil to a will.
A will is a document that directs the disposition of the person’s property on or after his or her death. A will must be in writing and signed by the person making the will at the end, or the person making the will may direct that his or her name will be signed at the end by some other person in the presence of the person intending to make a will. The person signing the will or the person signing the will of another must also sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses. These witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the person intending to make a will and in the presence of each other.
No particular form of words is necessary for a will to be valid if it is signed with the required formalities which are described in the previous paragraph.
A codicil is an amendment to a will. A codicil must also be signed with the same formalities as a will. A holographic will is a handwritten will that is not properly witnessed. A nuncupative will is an oral will declared or dictated by a person in his or her final sickness before a sufficient number of witnesses, and afterwards reduced to writing. The Florida statutes do not authorize a judge to admit a holographic or nuncupative will to probate. However, a will in a person’s handwriting that has been signed and witnessed in the same manner for a will is not considered a holographic will and may be admitted to probate.
The purpose of probate is to collect a deceased person’s assets, pay his or her claims, taxes, and administrative expenses from those assets, and distribute the remainder of the assets after administrative expenses to the beneficiaries entitled to receive them. Does this article raise more questions than it answers? Do not wait to contact attorney Gregory Gay to discuss you estate planning questions.