A will is a written document that controls the disposition of a person’s property at that person’s death. Each state sets their own formal requirements in order for a will to be legal.
A properly executed will allows a person to make decisions on who will receive property rather than the decision having been made for the person by Florida’s intestacy laws. With a will, a person selects a personal representative (sometimes referred to as “executor”) of that person’s choosing, so long as the selected representative is qualified according to Florida law. The personal representative is then responsible for managing that person’s estate. An individual or a company can serve as a personal representative.
It is also possible to create a trust inside of a person’s will, in which some or all of the estate remains to be managed by a trustee, who can be empowered to distribute income to beneficiaries such as family members. A will can allow a person to make gifts to a charity that become effective at that person’s death.
Additionally, a will can provide for a minor’s property when the testator dies, avoiding the time and expense of guardianship for the minor’s property. A will can even name a guardian for the minor child, where the guardian would be responsible for making decisions about the minor’s care and living arrangements.
A will can authorize assets such as real estate to be sold without the property having to be subject of court proceedings. A person can also control who incurs the tax burden for property that is transferred to a beneficiary.
In Florida, there are several requirements for a will to be valid. Particularly: (1) the person making the will (referred to as the “testator”) must be no less than eighteen years old; (2) the person must be of sound mind at which time he or she signs the will; (3) the will must be written; (4) the will has to be witnessed and notarized; (5) the will has be executed according to the formalities that Florida law requires; and (6) the will has to be proved valid and accepted in a probate court.
It is important to note that a will does not become permanent until the testator dies, which means that it can be modified by the testator through the creation of a new will. Alternatively, a will can be modified through a codicil – a separate written amendment that is executed with the same formalities that Florida law requires for a will.
The terms of a will can not be altered through crossing it out or writing anything in after which point the will has been executed. Once the will has been executed, any writings could cause some or all of the will to become invalidated.