Living in (or maybe moving to) Florida? You’ll want to know about a few Florida will requirements that are unique to the state.
Living in Florida, sun and sand aren’t the only fun things in your future. There’s also this: estate planning! No, but seriously—even the happy inhabitants of the Sunshine State need to have a last will and testament. So let’s see how Florida will requirements work.
Legal Requirements for Wills in Florida
Getting a last will and testament in place is a key protection for yourself and those you love. And if you’re in Florida, you need to know that Florida’s will requirements have a few specific ins and outs. The last thing you want is to find out a legal document that you created is not legally binding, risking the legacy you hoped to leave for your loved ones after years of building and planning. Let’s look at the basics for Florida will requirements as laid out in state law. Here’s what’s up for a Florida last will and testament:
It has to be in writing.
Only written wills are seen as binding in a Florida probate court, so if you want yours to stick, be sure to write it out—or even better, print it using an online will template.
Not all written wills are seen as equal, though. Ever heard of a holographic will? It has nothing to do with virtual reality. It’s just a will that’s handwritten, but which has no witnesses. Some states allow for such wills to stand, but Florida does not. All wills must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, or they won’t fly in Florida (more on the role of witnesses below).
It cannot be a spoken will.
The fact that Florida requires wills to be in writing means you can forget about using another rare kind of will: nuncupative! No, we’re not cursing you out. A nuncupative will is simply a last will and testament spoken aloud that never gets into print. If you’re wondering who’d make one, it’s usually only done when somebody’s facing an immediate expectation of dying, like in a hospice situation. Although some states honor these last-minute spoken wills, Florida won’t—not even for Florida Man. You’ll need to get it in writing.
It has to be created by someone competent.
Florida requires that a will be made only by someone of sound mind and over the age of 18 (with one exception mentioned below).
It has to be signed by the testator.
And who might that be? A testator is the legal term for the person who created a will. Just know that once you’ve made it, Florida law requires you to go ahead and sign it to put it into effect.
The signing must take place in the presence of at least two witnesses.
Any old signature won’t do for a binding Florida will. In order to stick, your John Hancock has to go down in the presence of at least two witnesses. Not only that, but the state also has a few other related requirements for witnesses to wills:
- Both witnesses must also sign in the presence of the testator, and in the presence of one another. To say it another way, even with two witnesses present at the testator’s signature, if only one of them signs it immediately and the other one signs it later without the other witness present, no dice. It’s a triple-signature event to count.
- Any competent person can serve as a witness. However, we do not recommend using someone named as an heir in the will to serve as a witness. Why not? Because this can raise questions later in court about the witness bringing undue influence on the writing and signing of the will. To keep things neat and tidy, just find two neutral friends to serve in this role.
- We do recommend something else as a finishing touch: Have both witnesses sign something known as a self-proving affidavit and make it a part of the will. It will simplify probate someday, allowing the witnesses to avoid testifying about the will’s authenticity in court.
Documents are flexible.
Many states require a will to be created using certain state-issued templates or documents, but Florida is not one of those. So long as the rules above are followed, the language and phrasing are up to you.
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And there are a couple of things you can do with a will in Florida, but if you do, you’ll want to be aware of related requirements around those actions:
Florida wills can be amended.
When you make a new will in Florida and later realize you need to change it in any way, you can use a codicil. You were expecting an alligator? Actually, no animals are involved—a codicil is a legal document that updates an existing will. The amendment will be binding so long as it’s executed following the same rules as a normal will.
Florida wills can be contested.
Yeah, this is an area of estate planning that can get a little ugly. The timing here is just what you’d expect. For as long as the testator is living, no attempt to challenge the validity of a will is permitted. But after death, all bets are off, and the contesting is on. In fact, even the will itself has no power to set conditions on who can contest it. Any language aimed at penalizing or discouraging anyone from contesting the will is not enforceable.
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What’s Unique About Making a Will in Florida?
When you think about all the things that make Florida life unique—hundreds of miles of scenic beaches, world-class theme parks and no state income tax—you might not think of the requirements for making a will. But you should! Because there are a few interesting facts about about making a last will and testament in Florida that are unusual to the state. Would you believe?
- It’s one of only four states where emancipated minors are allowed to make a will (the others are Idaho, Massachusetts and Virginia).
- Here’s a unique way Florida honors the military—they honor holographic wills created by service members. The only other states with a similar law are Delaware and New York.
- Remember how we told you that Florida law doesn’t recognize a holographic will as valid? That’s right. No back-of-the-napkin, last-minute bequests without witnesses if you want your heirs to get their stuff. But Florida is so strict about refusing holographic wills, they won’t even honor one that was created in a state that does recognize them as valid. If you’re estate planning in Florida, you’re definitely going to need a legally witnessed will to make it work.
Online Will vs. Lawyer in Florida
With all of this legal talk, you may be wondering, Should I make my Florida will myself, or use a lawyer? We’re so glad you asked. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and while some people will do just fine making an online will through a trusted provider, other cases are more complex (and might need a lawyer’s touch). We happen to have just the quiz for you! It will help you learn which route works best for your specific needs, just by answering a few questions.
Make Your Florida Will
If you’re ready to make your Florida will, you’ll for sure want to work with someone with expertise and a heart to help you. Creating a will is one of the most important and most loving things you can do for your family. Believe it or not, it’s easy to make your own attorney-built, Florida-specific will in less than 20 minutes! We recommend working with RamseyTrusted Provider Mama Bear Legal Forms. All you have to do is plug in a few answers, and the rest is done for you. And best of all, this process won’t bog you down with a lot of nonsense legal jargon. Take this step today!
Complete Last Will & Testament Package for One Person
- Last Will & Testament
- Health Power of Attorney
- Finance Power of Attorney
Complete Last Will & Testament Package for Married Couples
- Two Last Will & Testaments
- Two Health Powers of Attorney
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