J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Executing a valid will in Florida

The purpose of most wills is for a person to dispose of their assets upon their death. For many people, this means figuring out how to divide their assets amongst their loved ones. Figuring out this part of the will is often the most difficult step of the process. However, it is also important for the person whose will it is -- also known as the testator -- to be sure that his or her will is valid.

Under Florida law, a valid will includes a number of requirements. First, the will must be in writing and the testator must sign it. In other words, the testator cannot form an oral will by telling another person what to do with their assets upon their death. The signature requirement means that the testator must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses. If the testator is unable to sign their name, they must direct another person to sign their name, but two witnesses must still be present when the testator directs that person to sign.

The witnesses component of the will also involves some more particularized requirements. The witnesses must each sign the will. But, they must sign while in each other's presence, as well as in the testator's presence. In other words, if one witness signs in front of the testator, but the other witness is in another room at the time, the witness's signature is invalid.

The testator can draft a will in their own handwriting, which is known as a holographic will, but this still must follow all of the other will formalities for it to be legally valid. In addition, the testator can amend the will at any time, but the amendment, which is known as a codicil, must also follow all of the execution formalities as the will itself.

A will has no value unless the testator properly executes it according to Florida law. At the same time, even a properly executed will is of little value unless the terms of the will are clearly stated. An experienced estates and trusts attorney can help people in Polk County avoid future will contests by creating a will that is enforceable and unambiguous.

Source: Florida Statutes, "Execution of Wills," Accessed May 11, 2015

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