Understanding a Last Will and Testament

March 23, 2021

As the saying goes, there are only two things for certain in life: death and taxes. No one wants to think about the fact that they’ll die, but it’s still important that you take the time to plan your estate. With the help of a law firm in Miami, FL, you can make sure your assets are appropriately distributed, and may even be able to minimize your loved ones’ tax liability when they inherit.

Here’s what you need to know about writing a will in Miami, FL, and why it’s important to work with a probate attorney throughout the process.

Requirements for a will

You can write your own will in Florida, although it’s not advisable—even if you follow the legal requirements to the letter, it’s still possible that you’ll make a mistake that will cost your loved ones. If you do decide to create your own will, it must be in writing and signed by the decedent—that is, the deceased person distributing the assets. In this case, you will be the decedent. It also must be signed by two witnesses and notarized.

In order to have the legal capacity to sign a will, Florida requires that the testator (that’s you, the person creating the will) must be of sound mind. Generally, this means you understand what kind of property you own, to whom you are leaving it and what that means for everyone involved. Wills that leave your entire multimillion dollar estate to your cat Fluffy, without providing for your husband of 50 years, your children or your grandchildren, would certainly raise some questions about your legal capacity. If someone were to challenge your will, it would be their burden to prove you were incapacitated at the time of signing.

What happens if you don’t have a will

If you don’t have a will when you die, you’re considered “intestate.” In that case, state law governs who gets your assets. This is usually the surviving spouse (if there is one), unless you have children with someone else outside your marriage. If there are no spouses or parents, your estate will pass to your parents (if alive), then your siblings. This can continue until the state determines you have no surviving kin left. In that case, your estate defaults to the state.

Common mistakes in self-drafted wills

It’s definitely better to die with a will whenever possible, and it’s best to work with an attorney to create yours. There are a number of mistakes laypeople can make when distributing their property. For example, you might not foresee that your assets will shrink near the end of your life, and accidentally distribute more property than you actually own. You could choose an unqualified representative (executor), or leave your assets vulnerable to creditors.

Working with a probate attorney in Miami, FL helps protect your loved ones and their inheritance—and will give you the peace of mind that your assets will go where you choose. Contact us in Miami, FL today.

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Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler