Florida Laws Governing Last Wills and Trusts

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Florida Laws Governing Last Wills and Trusts

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

In Florida, both last wills and trusts are estate-planning tools that allow a person to prepare for what happens to their property once they die. Last wills and trusts are ways to designate how and to whom a person's assets transfer when they die. If you don't make a will or trust, the court distributes your property according to the state's intestacy laws.

Man in suit shuffling through documents

Drafting a Will in Florida

Florida Code Section 732.501 governs the creation of wills in Florida. In order to create a valid will, the individual writing the will—also known as the testator—must be 18 years old and of sound mind. The individual must know what they are doing, and they cannot have been designated incapacitated in a prior legal proceeding. State law also requires the testator to sign the will in front of two witnesses, who then must also sign the will in front of the testator and each other. All signatures must appear at the end of the will. Florida does not recognize oral wills.

Under Section 732.505 and Section 732.506, a will can be revoked if there is a subsequent will that is different from the original will or a codicil (an addition or supplement) to the original will. The testator can also revoke a will by engaging in certain acts, such as burning, tearing, or destroying the original will with the intent to revoke it. In the event the testator gets a divorce, the former spouse does not inherit any property left in a will unless there is a provision that specifically states that a former spouse should inherit even after a divorce. If the testator remarries, the new spouse can inherit under the will even if the will does not mention them.

Creating a Trust in Florida

Chapter 736 of the Florida Code governs the creation of trusts in Florida. A trust allows its grantor, or creator, to transfer almost any type of asset into the trust. The grantor designates a trustee to manage the trust on behalf of the trust's beneficiaries. A grantor can create a trust on its own, or they can create one in a will. Under state law, you can create a trust only for the benefit of its beneficiaries, or alternatively, for charitable purposes.

To create a trust, the grantor can either legally transfer assets into the trust's ownership or declare that the trustee holds title to the desired property.

Florida law also allows a person to create a trust to care for their animals after they die. This type of trust only lasts for the life of the animal and immediately terminates upon the animal's death. Any property placed in an animal trust must be solely for the care of the animal. If a court finds that the property in the trust is not relevant or is more than what's needed to care for the animal, it can distribute the excess property as part of the grantor's estate.

Last wills and trusts can serve similar purposes and are both ways to control what happens to your assets when you die. The many benefits and the ease of creation make them good options for people planning their estates.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.