People are free to choose how they want to distribute their property after their death. To decide who gets what and who does not, a person needs to create a will. Without a valid will, Florida law prescribes which of a person’s relatives may inherit their estate, regardless of the deceased’s wishes.
If you want to make these choices yourself, contact a Palm City wills lawyer today and schedule your appointment. An attorney familiar with drafting wills in Martin County can help you avoid creating an invalid will.
A will is a legal document that controls how a person’s property is distributed after their death. The person who creates the will is known as a testator. While a will is not the only way to transfer property after passing, it is generally the most effective way to make sure that all of a testator’s property not included in a trust or other estate planning device is distributed according to their wishes.
For a will to be valid, the testator must be at least 18 years old and mentally competent at the time of its creation. Florida law also requires that a will be in writing and contemporaneously signed by the testator and two witnesses. Though not technically required by law, it is highly advisable to have a notary attest to the signatures of the testator and witnesses. After the testator’s death, the executor submits the will to the probate court.
Some states recognize oral or holographic wills as legally valid, but Florida is not one of them. Neither holographic (handwritten without witnesses) nor nuncupative (oral) wills have any merit in Martin County probate court.
When a person passes intestate, meaning without a will, Florida’s laws of intestate succession decide how property is distributed to a person’s heirs. Under these statutes, a person’s surviving spouse generally inherits all or part of their estate. If the person was not married, had children with a person other than their spouse, or has no close surviving relatives, these laws determine which people could inherit a certain percentage of the deceased’s estate.
A valid will supersedes the intestate succession statute and allows a person to decide for themselves where their property should go. However, it is worth noting that a person generally cannot disinherit their spouse under Florida law unless they have a valid pre- or post-marital contract to that effect. Absent such a contract, the spouse may either inherit from the estate or take an elective share of the property.
In addition to distributing property, a Palm City wills attorney may help a testator achieve additional goals with a will. A person’s will could set up a trust, name a personal representative to manage their estate, sell real estate or assets, make gifts to charity, decide which heirs should pay any taxes from the estate, or name a guardian for minor children.
After a testator dies, their personal representative or executor typically files the late testator’s will with the probate court. The court then oversees the process of administering the testator’s estate, which typically includes inventorying property, paying final bills and taxes, and distributing remaining property to the will’s beneficiaries.
During the probate process, the deceased’s creditors have the opportunity to make claims against the estate. Anyone who challenges a will’s validity in Martin County may also file a petition during the probate case.
If there are no will contests or disputed creditors, the estate may then be closed once the executor distributes the remaining property. A wills lawyer in Palm City can help an executor through this process and inform a testator how it might play out in their particular circumstances.
A will could be as simple or as complex as your estate plan requires. Make sure that your will meets Florida’s legal standards and effectively passes on your property in the way that you want by contacting a Palm City wills lawyer today.