A will is a written document that must be signed by the will maker, called the testator. In Florida, witnesses must also sign the will. The will instructs the probate court how to disperse the deceased person's property. Under Florida law, there are specific requirements that must be met when a will is being prepared so that it is valid after death. If these requirements are not met, the will may be found to be invalid -- and Florida law will instead determine who receives the property.
Who May Make a Will
Florida law mandates that the person making a will, or testator, meets certain criteria. For example, a testator may not make a will unless they are of sound mind. This means the testator must be able to understand what he is intending for his property after death. The testator must also be at least 18 years of age -- with the exception that an emancipated minor may also make a will.
Contents of a Will
A will must include a designation of who will be the beneficiaries of the property and may also include who will be the executor. A beneficiary is someone that receives the deceased's property at the direction of the will. An executor is someone who acts as a personal representative of the estate while its property is distributed.
Signing of the Will
For a will to be valid under Florida law, it must be signed by the testator. At least two adult witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator. The witnesses are required to actually witness the testator either signing the will, acknowledging that she had signed the will previously or acknowledging that someone else had signed her name previously.
In Florida, to avoid the possibility that the signing of the will may one day be challenged, the testator may choose to take the additional step that allows a self-proving will. In a self-proving will, the testator must sign the will at the end and two witnesses must also sign the will in the testator's presence. The additional step that makes the will self-proving is a notary must be present and sign a specific acknowledgement form.
Dying Without a Will
If a person dies without a will, known as dying intestate, Florida law dictates where the deceased person's property goes. Typically, the property will go to the deceased person's heirs. An heir is a person who is related to the deceased and who will receive the deceased person's assets as distributed according to Florida law. For example, if a person dies without a will and was not married but has a child, the deceased's child would receive the decedent's property as his heir.