A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is a written document that states what is to happen to your property upon death. A Will can be changed at any time while you are alive, but becomes final upon death. Changes must be made in writing and executed with the same formalities as a Will to be valid. You cannot make changes by writing on the Will or crossing things out in the Will. In fact, writing on the Will after its execution may invalidate part of the will or all of it. It is important that any changes you wish to make, be made correctly.
If you die without a Will (this is called dying “intestate”), your property will be distributed to your heirs according to a formula fixed by law. The Florida inheritance statute determines who gets your property. The inheritance statute contains a rigid formula and makes no exception for those in unusual need. When there is no Will, the court appoints a personal representative, known or unknown to you, to manage your estate. The cost of probating and time to probate your estate may be greater than if you had planned your estate with a Will, and the administration of your estate may be subject to greater court supervision.
Having a Will allows you to:
- decide who gets your property instead of the law making the choice for you
- name the personal representative of your will, rather than the court
- decide who bears any tax burden, rather than the law making that decision