What is a will?
A will is a legal document that is the most commonly used estate planning instrument. A will, also known as a last will and testament, sets forth how an individual’s estate is administered after his or her death. Wills are used to dictate how an individual’s estate will be distributed among family or friends and how their creditors will be paid.
Different types of Wills
- Self-proving will - This is a will that has been witnessed, signed and notarized with all of the formalities which are required by state law. This is the most common type of will. This type of will avoids the necessity of having a witness to the will attesting to your signature after your death.
- Holographic will - A will that is written without the presence of witnesses. It is usually handwritten and signed by the testator or testatrix. This type of will is not valid in Florida.
Elements of a Will
The individual writing the will must be of sound mind and free of any undue influence or coercion in addition to the following:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Know the nature and value of your assets
- Know that you are making a will
- Understand your relationship between yourself and the people who care about you (immediate family members, including spouse and family)
- Signed, dated, and notarized
- Have the will attested by at least two witnesses
- Appoint a personal representative
- Outline the distribution of property
- Authorize that all debts and taxes are paid
See our FREE Florida simple Will form which contains the basic provisions of a Florida Last Will and Testament.
Other legal areas related to wills include:
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Health Care & Financial Powers of Attorney
- Will Contests
- Undue Influence Claims
- Florida Probate
- Wrongful Death
Durable power of attorney
A durable power of attorney allows the grantor to authorize another individual (called the agent or attorney-in-fact) to make decisions and act on his or her behalf. Furthermore, the durable power of attorney document will take effect as soon as it is signed and will remain in full force and effect even if the grantor later becomes disabled or incapacitated. The word "attorney" is not used here to mean "lawyer". The person acting as the attorney-in-fact for the principal does not need to be a lawyer. Almost anyone can be appointed an attorney-in-fact by a power of attorney.
Healthcare power of attorney or healthcare surrogate
A healthcare power of attorney empowers the attorney-in-fact (proxy) to make health care decisions for the grantor, up to and including terminating care and ending life supports that are keeping a critically and terminally ill patient alive. Health care decisions include the power to consent, refuse consent or withdraw consent to any type of medical care, treatment, service or procedure. In many jurisdictions, a health care power of attorney is also referred to as a "health care proxy" and, as such, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Do you need an experienced estate planning lawyer?
Creating a will can sometimes be a complex and frustrating task if you do not clearly understand the requirements and regulations in place for your state. Legal formalities and the potential tax implications of drafting a will make it wise to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. It is possible that a revocable living trust might be better for your situation than a will. Your local Broward County lawyer can clearly explain all of your options and help you decide what type of will is best for you and your family.