Thinking about estate planning in advance can help preserve your assets and reduce the burden on your heirs. Making a valid will is often the first step you need to ensure a distribution of your property that accords with your wishes.

In the absence of a will, probate court will distribute your assets in accordance with Florida’s intestacy provisions

Signatures and witnesses

Florida law sets forth some basic technical requirements. You must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign in your presence and one another’s presence. To avoid potential litigation about what “in the presence” actually means, everyone should be in the same room and directly visible to all others.

Holographic wills

Some states allow holographic wills, which are completely handwritten wills that only require the testator’s signature. While Florida will accept a holographic will from a state that allows them, it will generally not admit a holographic will written in Florida. On a practical level, this type of will tends to raise problems and be vulnerable to challenges.

Testamentary capacity

For a will to be valid, the testator must have testamentary capacity. Basically, this means knowing the approximate type and extent of your assets, understanding your familial relationships and comprehending the meaning of leaving property to someone in your will. Even if a court has previously found a person legally incapable of entering into a contract, that person may still possess testamentary capacity. If you believe concerns about capacity may arise, you may wish to take steps to establish capacity, such as undergoing an examination by a qualified professional and requesting a comprehensive report.

While you can easily find a number of will forms online, drafting a custom will generally yields better results. Will forms often do not include important provisions. Your assets and personal relationships differ from everyone else’s, and your will should reflect that.