If you live in Florida and have decided to make 2016 year you finally get started on estate planning, your first step will likely be making a will. Many people begin the new year by deciding to finally get a start on their estate planning efforts. The first step in this process is typically making a last will and testament, though there are many other steps involved in making a comprehensive plan. Today we begin a multipart blog series on one you will need to do to go about making a comprehensive estate plan in Florida by looking at what you will have to do when making a will.
Making a Will in Florida. Basic Requirements
A last will and testament is a legal document. As such, the document has to meet a number of specific requirements as imposed under state law. Every states, including Florida, has its own laws about wills and the people who make them, though these are generally similar, if not identical, regardless of the state in which you live.
Simply put, you have to be a mentally sound person of at least 18 years old in order to make a last will and testament. You’re never under any obligation to make a will, but can choose to do so any time after you reach the age of 18.
You have to make your will in writing, signed the document, and have two mentally sound adults serve as witnesses who then also sign the document as well. As long as you do that, a Florida court will recognize any will you make as a legally valid last will and testament.
Making a Will in Florida. Will Choices
Most people know that the last will and testament allows them to make certain choices, such as decisions about inheritances. But, inheritance choices are not the only decisions you get to make through your will. Other choices include, for example, decisions about guardians for minor children, the creation of testamentary trusts, and deciding on who you want to serve as your state representative after you die.
Making a Will in Florida. Optional Clauses
Beyond the legal basics required, wills can, and almost always short, include additional or optional clauses that will make your wishes both more clear, and easier to carry out after your death. For example, most will include a residuary clause. This clause is designed to serve as a catch-all inheritance decision, effectively taking any property you failed to address in your will and giving it to a specified person or organization. Residuary clauses are not legally necessary, but are practical tools that almost every will includes because failing to include them can lead to significant problems.
It’s because of residuary clauses and other options like them that speaking to an estate planning attorney about your will is always a good idea. If you fail to talk to an experienced lawyer before creating your will, you might inadvertently make a document that has a lot of potential problems.