What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a formal, legal document that is probably one of the most important documents of your life. A Last Will and Testament describe who the most important people are to you, who you trust to settle your final affairs, and who you wish to benefit with your remaining assets upon death. Nothing could be more personal than your wishes, who you wish to benefit through your Last Will and Testament. In many ways, this document is a summary of what and who matters most to you.
Your Last Will and Testament must be executed with the formalities required by the State of Florida so that it may be admitted to the civil court through a probate process to settle your affairs, pay any creditor claims and then distribute your assets to the people or charities you wish to benefit upon your death. The important Florida Statutes to review concerning your Last Will and Testament are found in Fla Statute Chapter 732.
If your Last Will and Testament is not executed in conformance to the Statutes, it will be more difficult and require extra legal work to demonstrate to the court that the document is a true expression of your wishes and not a product of fraud. At the very worst case, the Probate Court may reject your Last Will and Testament, and instead, your estate will be administered under intestacy laws. This can lead to people that you never intended to benefit on your death receiving your wealth.
Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?
If you do not have a valid Last Will and Testament (or the Probate Court will not admit your Last Will and Testament, the State of Florida will administer your estate under its intestacy laws (Florida Statute Sections 732.101-.109) that determines who has the legal right to your property. In essence, the closest surviving blood relatives will inherit your property. This outcome may or may not be what you would want. It can also lead to that family member estranged from benefiting from your estate or very distant blood relatives benefiting that you have no relationship.
What is a Personal Representative?
Another name for a Personal Representative is "executor" that many people are more familiar with this term.
What are the formalities of a Last Will and Testament?
For a Will to be legally valid, the testator must sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses, and he or she must be mentally competent and not acting under duress or under the controlling influence of another. It is very beneficial to execute your Last Will and Testament in the presence of the two witnesses and a notary public that issue a "Self-Proving Affidavit" that your Last Will and Testament was executed with the proper formalities.
Give us a call. We can help.
Law Office of Shawn C. Newman, P.A.
710 Northeast 26th Street
Wilton Manors, FL 33305-1238
Phone: (954) 563-9160
Serving all of the greater Fort Lauderdale area and Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties in Southern Florida.