What is a Valid Will in Florida?

A will is a document that determines who receives a person’s property when they pass away. Florida law requires that a will must be signed by the testator (the person writing the will) and two witnesses to be enforceable. The testator must either sign in front of the witnesses or tell the witnesses that he or she previously signed the will. The witnesses must sign together in the presence of each other and in the presence of the testator. The rules for the execution of wills are found in Florida Statute 732.502.

It is not necessary for a will to be notarized for the document to be valid. Notarized wills are preferred as they are easier to admit to probate court. A notarized will is referred to as a “self-proved will.” When a will is not notarized, a witness to the will must make a statement to the probate court confirming that they witnessed the will. When a will is notarized, a witness statement is not required. It is easier to have a will notarized.

What Happens When You Die in Florida Without a Will?

When a person dies without a will, their assets go to their spouse and/or closest relatives. Florida Statute sections 732.102 and 732.103 specifically determine how a decedent’s property is divided when they die without a will under the 2022 Florida Probate Rules. This process is referred to as intestate succession.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

What Property and Assets Go Through Probate in Florida?

Any asset owned by someone who has passed away is subject to probate in Florida. The exception to this rule is property that had a named beneficiary or rights of survivorship. Examples of property that may have a named beneficiary would be a life insurance payout, a retirement account, or a bank account with a “pay on death” designation. An example of property with rights of survivorship would be real estate that has a deed indicating that a surviving co-owner will take the full ownership of the property upon the death of the other owner. Property purchased by a husband and wife typically has rights of survivorship in Florida, even if that specific language does not appear on the deed to the property. This type of survivorship is called “tenancy by the entirety,” and only requires that title be held by husband and wife, in which case, the deed will automatically transfer to the survivor upon the death of one spouse.

If an asset does not have a named beneficiary or rights of survivorship, it will have to go through probate to change ownership pursuant to the Florida Probate Rules (2022). The most common assets that go through this process are bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, and personal property. To determine if a specific financial account is subject to probate, the financial institution should be contacted. To determine if real estate is subject to probate, an attorney should examine the deed to the property.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

Probate, also called “estate administration,” is a court process that transfers assets owned by a deceased person to the beneficiaries named in their Will.

In probate, the person who died is referred to as the “decedent.” Anything that the decedent owned when they died is collectively referred to as the “estate.” An estate may contain bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, tools, jewelry, art, guns or any other personal property owned at the time of death.

Probate is required even when a decedent has a valid Will. When someone dies with a Will, a probate judge must “admit the Will” to probate by finding that the will is valid. If the decedent died without a Will, otherwise known as “intestate”, the probate will proceed and assets will be distributed to the next of kin.

In legal terms, “beneficiaries” are people named in a will, and “heirs” are the next of kin who receive property in the absence of a will. Whether a decedent died with or without a will, the court’s main priority is to ensure that the correct beneficiaries/heirs are identified to receive the decedent’s property.

If a decedent had a valid Will, that document nominates who will be the “Personal Representative.”  The Personal Representative must be represented by an Attorney and is responsible for overseeing the probate process and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.

There are two types of probate administration in Florida, formal administration and summary administration. Summary administration is a simpler process, while formal administration is required for certain estates that need the services of a personal representative or are too large for summary administration. The differences between these two types of probate proceedings are outlined for you later in this guide.

When the beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent’s estate are identified and the correct probate documents are submitted to the court, the judge will sign orders allowing the estate assets to be transferred. Prior to property being distributed, the probate judge must be satisfied that all interested parties have received proper notice, that eligible estate creditors have been paid, and that any disputes among the beneficiaries are resolved.

Chapters 731-735 of the Florida Statutes contain the probate laws for our state, however each county in Florida has specific requirements that must be met before the probate court will allow a case to move forward.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way that most probate courts operate, many judges now hold hearings by video conference.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

 

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
646 N Dixie Fwy
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667