Plant City Will Drafting Attorney
Estate Planning Basics
Planning for the disposition of your assets at death is vital to the preservation of wealth and financial stability of your loved ones who survive you. Estate planning is a complex area of the law. The attorneys at Byrd & Barnhill are prepared to help you begin the process of making an estate plan. The size and complexity of your current financial and family situation, as well as your intended beneficiaries and disposition of your estate, will affect whether a basic will is adequate for your estate planning needs. If your situation needs more specialized legal attention we will refer you to a legal specialist in estates and taxation or other specialized areas of the law to help you accomplish your estate planning goals.
Estate Planning Process
During our initial consultation the estate planning attorneys at Byrd & Barnhill will need to gather some information in order to present you with your estate planning options. Some of the basic information that we will need before preparing a will or other estate planning documents includes the following:
- The names, addresses, and dates of birth for client, spouse, family members, and others who will be beneficiaries;
- The health status of client, spouse, children, and parents;
- A list of the clients' income, assets and liabilities, and the current fair market values of assets and payoff of liabilities;
- Any liens, claims, litigation, judgments, or other potential liabilities affecting the estate;
- Employment status, level of compensation, and the existence, terms, and designated beneficiaries of employee benefits including stock options, retirement plans, and IRAs;
- Identity and status of children or other potential beneficiaries and any physical or mental impairment affecting the beneficiaries;
- The clients' citizenship and domicile;
- List of insurance policies, including the face amount, cash values, loans, ownership and beneficiary; and
- The current Will and trust agreements, if any.
Florida statutes govern the validity and execution of Wills; however, a will made in another state is valid in Florida if the will was valid in the other state at the time it was made.
Basically, in Florida an individual who is at least 18 years old, or who has been emancipated, and is of sound mind can make a valid last will and testament. Being of sound mind” means that the person has the ability to understand in a general way the nature and extent of the property to be disposed of, and the his or her relation to those who would naturally claim a substantial benefit from the will, as well as a general understanding of the practical effect of the will as executed. Note, that every adult is presumed to be of sound mind until proven otherwise.
Oral Wills and handwritten wills without proper witnessing are not valid in Florida.
Proper Will Signing
In order for a will to be valid in Florida it must be signed and witnessed in strict compliance with Florida law which provides as follows:
"Every will must be in writing and executed as follows:
(1)(a) Testator's signature.
1. The testator must sign the will at the end; or
2. The testator's name must be subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
(b) Witnesses.--The testator's:
1. Signing, or
a. That he or she has previously signed the will, or
b. That another person has subscribed the testator's name to it, must be in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses.
c. Witnesses' signatures.--The attesting witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other.
(2) Any will, other than a holographic or nuncupative will, executed by a nonresident of Florida, either before or after this law takes effect, is valid as a will in this state if valid under the laws of the state or country where the will was executed. A will in the testator's handwriting that has been executed in accordance with subsection (1) shall not be considered a holographic will.
(3) Any will executed as a military testamentary instrument in accordance with 10 U.S.C. s. 1044d, Chapter 53, by a person who is eligible for military legal assistance is valid as a will in this state.
(4) No particular form of words is necessary to the validity of a will if it is executed with the formalities required by law.
(5) A codicil shall be executed with the same formalities as a will."
Estates With No Will?
In Florida, if someone dies without a will, then he or she is said to have died "intestate." In such cases the deceased's intestate property is distributed to the deceased's heirs as follows:
If the decedent has:• a surviving spouse but no surviving children or their descendants - the spouse gets the entire intestate estate;• a surviving spouse and surviving lineal descendants of both the decedent and the surviving spouse - the spouse gets the first $60,000 worth of the intestate estate and one half of the balance, and the lineal descendants get equal shares of the other one half;• a surviving spouse and at least one surviving lineal descendant who is not a lineal descendant of the surviving spouse - the spouse gets one half and all of the decedent's lineal descendants get equal shares of the other one half;
If the decedent has:• no spouse, but children or their descendants - the decedent's lineal descendants share equally, per stirpes;• no spouse and no lineal descendants - the decedent's parents share equally or the surviving parent takes all;• no spouse, no lineal descendants, and no parents - the brothers and sisters share equally, with the share of any deceased sibling going to that sibling's descendants;• no spouse, no children, no parents, and no brothers or sisters or descendants of them - one half to the decedent's paternal grandparents and one half to the decedent's maternal grandparents. • If there are no relatives on either side, the entire intestate property goes to the kindred of the last deceased spouse of the decedent as if the spouse had survived the decedent, inherited the entire estate, and then died intestate.• If there are no relatives of the decedent who are entitled to inherit under Florida's intestacy laws, the decedent's estate “escheats” to the state.