What You Need To Consider When Writing Your Will
Creating a Last Will and Testament is one of those tasks on the to-do list that many people put off until “another day.” Unfortunately, many people pass away without writing a will and end up leaving behind an assortment of hassles and headaches for their loved ones to deal with. Roulet Law Firm, P.A. provides client-centered and detail-oriented representation to help clients in Florida and Minnesota navigate the tough waters of estate planning when drafting a will. An experienced estate planning attorney can listen to your concerns and examine your situation in order to ensure that your estate plan is tailored to your unique circumstances and meets all legal requirements. Call our Minnetonka, Minnesota office at 763-420-5087 or our Florida office at 941-909-4644 today to start working on your Last Will and Testament.
Types of Wills
When writing a will, individuals can choose from several formats and types of wills, although it is important to be sure that the type you choose is recognized in the state where you are living or plan to reside. Here are a few considerations for residents of Florida and Minnesota:
- Simple wills, which are written and signed by the testator (the person creating the document) in the presence of two witnesses, are the most common type of will in both Florida and Minnesota.
- Oral or nuncupative wills are spoken to another person (a witness) but not written out. Neither Florida nor Minnesota recognizes oral wills as valid.
- Joint wills are common for married couples and come in the form of a legal document that merges two individual wills into a single one.
- Mirror wills are generally for married couples who cannot or do not want to have a single document (joint will). Instead, the two people execute two identical wills.
- Pour-over wills are typically used in conjunction with a revocable living trust and are designed to make sure that any of the testator’s assets not included in a trust at the time of their death are automatically transferred into the trust after their passing.
- Holographic or handwritten wills are written entirely in a person’s own handwriting and are typically not notarized; they also often do not contain the signatures of witnesses. Handwritten wills are not recognized as valid in Florida or Minnesota.
Since writing a will can be a nuanced and complicated matter, you may wish to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to help you breeze through the process and ensure that your legacy is protected for generations to come.
The Main Rules of Writing a Will
Because every individual’s life is unique, so is their Last Will and Testament. While the document may contain some special provisions, wills typically include the following:
- Basic information about the testator (full name and address)
- The name of the executor (the person who will carry out the testator’s wishes and follow the instructions outlined in the document after their death)
- The preferred guardians for minor children and pets (if any)
- The testator’s list of assets and investments
- The list of named beneficiaries
- The manner in which the testator wants their assets and investments to be distributed to the named beneficiaries
- The testator’s signature
- The signatures of two witnesses
- The date the document is signed
Both Florida and Minnesota have identical requirements for creating the Last Will and Testament. To be recognized as valid by the probate court, a will:
- Must be in writing. Neither oral nor handwritten wills are recognized as valid in Minnesota or Florida.
- Must be written by a competent person. Under the law, a person is competent to create a will if they are at least 18 years of age and are of sound mind (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 732.501 and Minn. Stat. § 524.2-501).
- Must be signed by the testator. Any symbol, letter, or mark is considered the testator’s signature as long as the person intends it to serve as the fact that they signed the document.
- Must be signed by two witnesses. Both Florida and Minnesota require wills to be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, who must also sign the document. The testator and the two witnesses must sign the document in each other’s presence.
- Can be revoked or modified. The testator can modify or revoke the will at any moment when necessary by creating a new will or writing a codicil. The revocation can also be accomplished by burning, tearing, obliterating, or otherwise destroying the document.
The legal jargon involved when creating the Last Will and Testament can make the process of writing a will more confusing and intimidating. At Roulet Law Firm, P.A., our legal team can help guide you through the process from start to finish and ensure that you do not leave out anything important.
The 7 Steps of Preparing a Will
Preparing a will may seem like a daunting process, which may be one of the reasons why six in ten American adults do not have the Last Will and Testament in place, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. However, writing a will essentially encompasses only seven steps:
- Listing your assets and investments. These may include your real estate, automobiles, savings and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, jewelry, family heirlooms, bonds, stocks, and others.
- Consulting with an estate planning attorney (optional). While not a legal requirement, working with an attorney when preparing a will can help ensure that the document is valid and reflective of your wishes.
- Deciding who gets what. The document must specify how you want your assets and investments to be divided among the named beneficiaries.
- Naming the executor of your estate. The executor of the estate has the responsibility to execute the wishes outlined in the will.
- Choosing guardians for minor children and pets. If you have any minor children and/or pets, you might want to consider naming a person(s) who would take care of your kids and pets if something happens to you.
- Making the document official and valid. A testator must follow their state’s specific requirements for the document to be valid. As discussed earlier, Florida and Minnesota require that the testator is an adult (at least 18 years of age) and of sound mind, and that the document be signed by the testator and two witnesses, all of whom must be present at the same time.
- Keeping the document up-to-date. When you finish writing your will, you may want to review the document periodically to ensure that it still reflects your current wishes and circumstances. A modification may be necessary when acquiring/losing assets, making an out-of-state move, or experiencing changes in the family (births, deaths, adoptions, divorces, and marriages).
Get Help With Writing A Will
An experienced estate planning and probate attorney can guide you throughout the process of writing a will to help you make informed decisions regarding your future and legacy and ensure that your Last Will and Testament fits your unique circumstances. The legal team at Roulet Law Firm, P.A., provides customized advice and estate planning support to clients in Florida and Minnesota. Call our Minnetonka, Minnesota office at 763-420-5087 or our Florida office at 941-909-4644 today to schedule your personalized consultation.
And, if you would like to learn how to make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for your family to manage your affairs during incapacity and after passing, while ensuring your assets only go to whom you want and how you want, click here to register for our FREE online masterclass.
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