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Need Help Creating a Will in Jacksonville, FL?

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Every year, countless people pass away without a will—which is also known as dying “intestate.” This can happen for a number of different reasons. Some people are young and can’t envision a day when they will no longer be with their family and loved ones. Others aren’t wealthy, so they don’t think it matters. But perhaps the biggest reasons that most people haven’t prepared a will is because they simply haven’t gotten around to it.

The reality is that dying without a properly drafted will almost always causes unnecessary hardship for your survivors as they try to speculate about what you would have wanted. When you come to Owenby Law, P.A. for help with all of your estate planning needs, we can make the preparation of your will a relatively easy process. Then, you can move forward with peace of mind. Contact our Jacksonville estate planning lawyers today.

If you are ready to get started, call (904) 770-3141 for your free initial consultation.

What is a Last Will and Testament?

In Florida, the terms "will" and "testament" are synonymous. A will is a document that appoints a person to read, interpret, and execute the final wishes of the preparer with regard to property and other matters. A will can be simple or very complex. However, in order for a will to be valid under Florida law, it must meet certain conditions. The testator’s wishes must be stated in writing, the will must bear the testator’s signature, and the testator’s name must be subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s direction.

Creating a will is a key aspect of estate planning, offering the following benefits:

  • Distribution of Assets: A will allows you to specify how your assets and property should be distributed among your beneficiaries after your death. Without a will, the distribution of your assets will be determined by state laws, which may not align with your wishes.
  • Guardianship for Minor Children: For parents with minor children, a will enables you to designate a guardian for your children in the event of your death. This ensures that someone you trust will be responsible for their care and upbringing.
  • Executor Appointment: You can nominate an executor in your will to manage the distribution of your assets and handle the administrative tasks of your estate, such as paying off debts and taxes. This ensures that your affairs are managed by someone you trust.
  • Minimize Family Disputes: A clear and legally binding will can help minimize potential conflicts among family members regarding the distribution of your assets. By clearly outlining your wishes, you reduce the likelihood of disputes and legal challenges.
  • Tax Planning: A well-crafted will can also help minimize estate taxes and other taxes that may be incurred upon your death. Estate planning strategies can be employed within your will to reduce the tax burden on your beneficiaries.
  • Peace of Mind: Creating a will provides peace of mind, knowing that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones will be taken care of after your passing. It offers reassurance that your legacy will be managed in the manner you desire.
  • Protecting Unmarried Partners and Charitable Contributions: If you're in a long-term relationship but not married, a will can ensure that your partner is provided for after your death. Additionally, you can use your will to leave assets to charitable organizations or causes that are important to you.
  • Avoiding Intestacy Laws: Without a will, your estate will be subject to intestacy laws, which may distribute your assets in a way that doesn't reflect your preferences. Creating a will allows you to maintain control over the distribution of your estate.

How to Create a Will in Florida

In Florida, creating a will involves several legal steps to ensure its validity and enforceability. Here's an overview of the process:

  1. Capacity: The person creating the will, known as the testator, must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. They must also understand the nature and extent of their assets and the consequences of creating a will.
  2. Drafting the Will: The testator can draft their will themselves or seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in estate planning. While handwritten (holographic) wills are recognized in Florida if properly executed, it's generally advisable to have a typed will to avoid potential challenges.
  3. Witnesses: Florida law requires that a will be signed by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of each other and the testator. Witnesses should not be beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
  4. Self-Proving Affidavit: To streamline the probate process, Florida allows testators to attach a self-proving affidavit to their will. This affidavit is signed by the testator and witnesses in front of a notary public, confirming the validity of the signatures and the execution of the will. It eliminates the need for the witnesses to appear in court during probate proceedings.
  5. Executor: The testator should appoint an executor in the will, who will be responsible for administering the estate according to the terms of the will. The executor's duties include gathering assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  6. Specific Bequests and Residuary Estate: The testator can specify particular assets or sums of money to be given to specific individuals or organizations (specific bequests). Any remaining assets not covered by specific bequests constitute the residuary estate, which is distributed according to the terms of the will.
  7. Review and Update: It's essential to review and update the will periodically, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of children, or significant changes in assets. This ensures that the will accurately reflects the testator's current wishes.
  8. Probate Process: After the testator's death, the will is submitted to the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. The court oversees the administration of the estate, including validating the will, appointing the executor, and ensuring that assets are distributed according to the will or state law if there's no will (intestacy).

Don’t Wait to Start Planning for the Future – Contact Owenby Law, P.A.

Creating a will can be quite challenging, which is why it's a good idea to hire a Jacksonville estate planning attorney. Here are several ways a lawyer can help:

  • Your lawyer will keep a copy of your will on file in case your family can’t locate your copy
  • There may be issues that you haven’t considered, especially where minor children are involved
  • There may be estate tax implications that you haven’t considered, or don’t know how to minimize
  • The will may not accomplish everything that you hope for without supporting documentation
  • You may be trying to accomplish something in the will that is contrary to Florida state law

When you meet with a Jacksonville estate planning lawyer at Owenby Law, P.A., we will find out what you want to accomplish and how you want your estate to be distributed. Then we will make recommendations to ensure that you walk away with the peace of mind of knowing that your affairs are in order. When you come to our firm for help with your elder law needs, you can rest easier knowing that we are taking care of the details.

For more information about wills, please contact Owenby Law, P.A. at (904) 770-3141  without delay.

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