This basic guide discusses what is a Florida will, how it is signed, where it should be kept, and how to find a will after a Florida resident has died. This guide also explains why a Florida lawyer should draft a will for a Florida resident.
What is a Florida Will and how is it signed?
A last will and testament is a writing that specifies who is to receive the assets of a deceased person (the decedent). Of all the legal documents prepared by lawyers, wills still require the most formality in signing. Wills not signed in accordance with the requirements of Florida law are void. Florida residents must sign wills at the end of the document in the presence of at least two witnesses who are both present at the same time and place with the testator (person making the will). Wills are usually signed in the presence of a notary public in addition to the witnesses so that the will is self-proving in case of death. Self-proving wills can be admitted to probate after the death of the testator without having the witnesses come to the courthouse.
Where should a Florida Will be kept?
The Florida resident should keep the original of his or her will in a safe place because it must be presented to the court at the time of death. A copy of the will may not be admitted to probate (except in unusual circumstances). Florida has no provision for pre-filing wills prior to death so the testator should keep the will in a safe deposit box at a bank or another safe place.
Where can I get a copy of the Will of a Florida resident who has died?
The first place to check is with the Clerk of Court of the county where the decedent resided.
Florida Statutes Section 732.901 says, "The custodian of a will must deposit the will with the clerk of the court having venue of the estate of the decedent within 10 days after receiving information that the testator is dead."
Why should a Florida resident engage a Florida lawyer to draft the Will?
Drafting Florida wills requires knowledge of the statutes and cases comprising Florida probate law. Probate law is grounded in ancient and complex legal theories that are not intuitive. Most non-lawyers' knowledge of probate law comes from watching television or hearing about probate from friends or relatives. Florida wills drafted by non-lawyers and lawyers in other states may result in wills that are not what was intended by the testator or in wills that are not valid at all. For this reason, Florida residents should engage Florida lawyers who have experience and knowledge in drafting Florida wills.
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