Last wills and testaments, usually called a will, are allowed in all 50 states. These documents allow people to state their wishes on how they want their property to get distributed after death. In Florida, the laws governing the use of wills are generally found in Chapter 732 of the Florida Statutes.
Florida law allows anyone to make a will as long as specific requirements are met. According to the Florida Bar Association, the will must be in writing, it must be made by a person who is at least 18 years old and who is of sound mind at the time of signing, and must be witnessed by at least two people.
Florida Statutes 732.501 also states that any emancipated minor under the age of 18 can also make a will. Further, the person making the will--called the testator--does not have to personally write or even sign the the will, but can direct someone else to sign on his or her behalf as long as the signature is done in the testator's presence.
Wills can be used for a number of purposes. According to the Florida Bar Association, wills are typically used by testators to determine who gets property after they die and to name the person, typically referred to as the executor, who is responsible for overseeing the distribution of property and making sure the terms of the will are met.
Wills can also create a trust where part of the testator's property, called the estate, is protected and where income is distributed to a beneficiary over time. Wills can transfer title of real estate without a court proceeding, make gifts to charities, determine who is responsible for any estate tax burdens, and appoint guardians over the testator's children.
There are some areas a will cannot cover, according to the Florida Bar Association. Wills can only be used to distribute property owned by the testator, so any property held jointly is not subject to distribution. For example, if a husband and wife own a home jointly and the wife dies, her will cannot bequeath the home to someone else. Also, any property held as a life estate cannot be distributed because ownership rights only exist when the person is alive. Further, a spouse is entitled to an elective share of the testator's estate, and unless the spouse willingly waives this right the will cannot disinherit the spouse's share.
Amendments and Revocations
Testator can change, revoke or amend their wills at any time in Florida as long as they meet the minimum requirements of age and sound mind. According to Florida Statutes 732.502, the changes must meet the same writing, signing, and witnessing requirements whenever a modification is made.
Wills can be revoked by the testator at any time. Drafting a new will can also revokes any previous wills, either by expressly stating the revocation in the new will or by including terms inconsistent with the old will and any codicils.