David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

Wills are important but state laws differ

A will is a legal document that describes the maker's wishes for how to distribute any assets after death. A will can also include other instructions that may guide one's family in making critical decisions for the departed. Without wills, many families find themselves in conflict with one another as they struggle to determine the best way to handle the estate.

Writing a will does not have to be a difficult task, but it does require that the writer, or testator, must follow the laws of the state in which he or she lives. For example, if someone moves to Florida after creating a will in another state, that person would be wise to check with a Florida attorney to ensure the will meets the terms of the law. Otherwise, the courts in this state may not accept the will as valid. Generally, though, if the will is valid in the jurisdiction where it was executed, it will be deemed valid in Florida even if it does not technically meet Florida requirements.

Some states allow testators to prepare a handwritten will and sign it without witnesses. This is called a holographic will. In some states, a testator may simply share his or her wishes orally, for example in the last days of one's life. Florida does not recognize oral or holographic wills. In fact, the laws of this state regarding signatures and witnesses for wills are quite specific.

Certainly, many people want to take every possible step to protect their loved ones from the often-destructive disputes that may arise during probate. Preparing solid, valid wills is one important step toward meeting that goal. A skilled attorney can provide clear information about the laws of this state and the best estate planning options for each unique situation.

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