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What Is A Valid Will In Florida, And What Happens If Someone Dies Without One?


There’s an old saying that reflects “only two things in life are certain: death, and taxes.” Fortunately for many governments, and unfortunately for the layman, often family members who are left behind after a loved one passes will be paying taxes on the death as well. Proper estate planning tailored to your specific assets and estate needs can do more than just simplify administrative matters in executing your last wishes. Utilizing the appropriate estate planning tools can protect your assets in various ways and save your heirs/beneficiaries a substantial amount of money AND time. Because of this, deciding on the appropriate tools and estate-planning options to protect your estate and your family’s interest in your assets is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It can be difficult, however, to even know where to start; such as, what is a valid will? And why, exactly, it is important to leave some legally sufficient estate plan behind?

What is a Valid Will in Florida?

A valid will is a legal document that dictates who has been chosen to take ownership of the property of the person who has passed away (“decedent’s” property). In order to be deemed valid in court, Florida law requires that, to be enforceable, all wills must be signed by the “testator,” aka the individual writing the will, as well as two additional witnesses. For the testator’s signature to be valid they must either sign in front of the signing witnesses or tell the witnesses that they had previously signed the will. Florida law dictates that the two witnesses must sign the will together, in each other’s presence, and in the presence of the testator. Florida Statute 732.502 details the rules of law surrounding the execution of wills in Florida.

Florida does not require a will to be notarized for it to be valid. However, notarization simplifies the process of “probate” – the legal process the estate will go through to ensure that assets and debts are allocated to the correct parties once the decedent passes away. A notarized will is “self-proved.” This means it is not necessary to call witnesses in probate court/ have witnesses make a statement testifying to the validity of the will before it can be utilized in the probate process. The Florida law laying down the rules for self-proved wills is found in Florida Statute 732.503.

What Happens When You Die in Florida Without a Will?

In Florida, when a person dies without a will or other estate-planning mechanism the assets will be handled by default through standard Florida law. The assets will go to the decedent’s spouse and/or closest relatives. This process is known as intestate succession, and many various factors can determine who inherits and what measure of the estate they will receive. By not leaving a plan with further specification, the decedent surrenders the extra element of control they may otherwise have had in the administration of their estate. The various ways the division of property will be decided in the case of intestate succession are found in Florida Statute sections 732.102 and 732.103.

Call Suncoast Civil Law

The Sarasota wills and probate lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law are knowledgeable, recognized professionals in the field. If you need to draft a valid will, other estate plan, or submit a will into the probate process, call our office today to ensure you have the sound counsel you need to successfully maneuver your estate through the probate process.