Important Elements of a Will

When you’re dealing with a legal document, it’s important to get it right. For example, a Will that is written incorrectly or leaves out important elements of a Will may spell big trouble for your heirs. Fortunately, Florida law lays out the elements needed to make a valid Will under Florida law.

The Testator

One of the most important elements of a Will is actually a person – the testator. This is the person who signs the Will. For a Will to be valid, the testator must be of sound mind. In addition, the testator must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor.

The Form

Another of the important elements of a Will is the way it is put together. Wills in Florida must be in writing, which typically means it is typed or printed (although a handwritten Will may qualify in some circumstances). Florida does not recognize holographic wills.

As for the body of the Will, the following components are important:

  • Distribution of Property. The body of the Will should state how the testator wants his or her property to be distributed to heirs. This section should include a residuary clause, which distributes anything remaining after any specific gifts are made.
  • Naming a Personal Representative. The testator may name at least one trusted person who will manage the testator’s estate after his or her death.
  • Naming a Guardian. When a testator has minor children, he/she should name someone to serve as guardian if both parents of the child pass away.

Some testators may establish a testamentary trust in their Wills. This type of trust is created and funded after the testator’s death.

A Will includes signature lines where the testator and two witnesses will sign. The testator may also include a self-proving affidavit, which is generally a wise idea. This is signed by the testator, two witnesses who observed the testator sign the Will, and a notary public. Note that Wills do not have to be notarized, but the self-proving affidavit does require notarization.

The Execution

A discussion of the important elements of a Will should include how the Will is executed. Florida law specifies how the testator and witnesses must sign the Will.

First, the testator:

  • Must sign at the end of the Will, or
  • Must direct someone to sign the Will in the testator’s presence.

The two witnesses are next. They must observe the testator’s execution of the Will or the testator’s acknowledgement that he/she previously signed the Will (or that another person subscribed the testator’s name to it), then sign the Will in each other’s presence and in the presence of the testator.

If a self-proving affidavit is attached, the testator and two witnesses will sign where indicated and before a notary public.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Will.

As a Florida attorney board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates, Attorney John Mangan offers effective estate planning to his clients. To schedule an appointment, call us at 772-324-9050 or fill out our Contact Form. Our office is conveniently located in Palm City, Florida.

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.