Do I need a Will? Can I just write down where I want my assets to go or tell someone my intentions?

In Florida, as in every state, there are specific requirements that must be met in order for a Will to be validly executed. In order to be legally sufficient and distribute assets as the testator (one who executes a Will) intended, a Will in Florida must be executed according to Florida law. If the Will is not executed according to Florida Statutes, it can be challenged and held to be invalid, which could cause your assets to be distributed contrary to your intentions.

We often get asked questions such as, “can I just write down where I want my belongings to go or tell someone what I want them to have?” The answer is yes and no.

Simply writing down where you want your belongings to go without the document being executed in accordance with Florida law is known as a holographic Will; it is not valid in Florida (see Florida Statutes 732.502). An oral will, also known as a nuncupative will, is also invalid in Florida and is not recognized as having legal significance. In order to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your writing is honored, it must be properly executed.

A separate writing that identifies tangible pieces of personal property and specifies to whom they should go can be valid if it is incorporated into a valid Will. If it is validly incorporated, specific devises can be changed or eliminated, but they key is that it must be part of a validly executed Will in order to be enforceable. On its own, a separate writing devising personal property will not be legally honored or enforced and again, if not connected to a valid Will, your belongings could be distributed according to intestacy (when someone does not have a Will) and contrary to your intentions. We commonly see disputes over property that was not sufficiently devised, even when the decedent thought there would be no problems after his/her death.

In order to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, it is always recommended to have a valid Last Will and Testament. It is equally important to update it regularly over time as life events and changes occur. A validly executed Will is only one piece of a comprehensive estate plan. Contact our Elder Law Attorneys for an appointment to answer your questions and allow them to provide you with the peace of mind you deserve.