Florida Laws Governing Last Wills & Trusts

By Lisa Magloff

A will allows you to leave your assets to the people you choose. If you die in Florida without a will, the state will distribute your assets – and this may not be the way in which you would like them distributed. In a trust, you give another person -- the trustee -- the title to your assets; the trustee manages these assets on behalf of your heirs. In Florida, wills and trusts are governed by laws found in the Florida State Statutes Title 42 Estates and Trusts.

A will allows you to leave your assets to the people you choose. If you die in Florida without a will, the state will distribute your assets – and this may not be the way in which you would like them distributed. In a trust, you give another person -- the trustee -- the title to your assets; the trustee manages these assets on behalf of your heirs. In Florida, wills and trusts are governed by laws found in the Florida State Statutes Title 42 Estates and Trusts.

Creating a Trust

The person creating a trust is called the settlor. In Florida, a trust may be created during the settlor's lifetime, or it may be created in his will. A trust is created when the title to property is legally transferred to the trustee, or when the property owner declares that the trustee holds the property as trustee. Florida law requires that all trusts be created for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In Florida, trusts may be created orally, but there must be clear and convincing evidence the trust was created, for example, one person's word is not enough.

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Trusts for Animals

Florida law allows trusts to be created for the care of an animal after its owner dies. This type of trust can only be for an animal that was alive during the settlor's lifetime. The trust ends automatically on the death of the animal. The settlor may appoint a trustee, or the court can appoint a trustee upon the settlor's death. In Florida, a trust set up for the care of an animal can only contain enough money or assets to care for the animal – if a court finds the trust contains more money than is needed for this purpose, it can order the excess money distributed as part of the settlor's estate.

Making a Will

Florida law allows anyone who is 18 or older, or an emancipated minor, of sound mind to make a will. Sound mind generally means that the person has not been found incompetent in a court hearing. All wills in Florida are required to be in writing and must contain the signature of the person making the will, who is known as the testator. The signature must be at the end of the will. If the testator cannot sign the will herself, she can ask another person to sign it on her behalf. The signature must be witnessed by two people, who also sign the will in the presence of the testator and of each other. Florida law does not require wills to have a set format – any form of words may be used.

Revocation of a Will

Florida laws allow a will to be revoked if there is a later will that is different from the original will or a codicil to the original will. The testator can also revoke a will by destroying it, as long as the destruction is done with the intention of revoking the will and is not merely an accident. If the testator divorces after making a will, the former spouse will not inherit under the will, unless it is stated in the will that the former spouse should inherit even after divorce. If the testator marries after making a will, the new spouse can inherit a share of the assets, even if the new spouse is not mentioned in the will.

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References

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