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Do I Need an Attorney to Execute an Estate Plan in Florida?

by Caldwell Trust


Accountants, financial planners, attorneys, and other such professionals use the term "estate planning" in reference to the planning and execution of an estate or a "will." Such planning and execution involve preparing documents for minimizing probate, reducing estate taxes, protecting clients in case they become ill or incapacitated, and providing distribution of their assets upon passing.


Related Blog: When and How Often Should You Update Your Estate Plan?


Many estate plans are very basic and may only include a "last will and testament". Other documents in an estate plan "living wills", "power of attorney for healthcare" and a "durable power of attorney."


More complex estate planning involves revocable trusts (living trusts) and irrevocable trusts. Estate planning, in a simple yet straightforward description, is when someone begins planning in the event they become disabled, incapacitated, or pass away.


When Should I Consider Estate Planning?

Considering the above-mentioned explanation concerning estate planning, most professionals in the industry agree that every adult and their loved ones could benefit from estate planning, especially if the unexpected happens. The fact of the matter is, no individual has the ability to predict what tomorrow will bring.


Thus, the ultimate goal of estate planning is to protect the person, his or her loved ones, and all of their assets in the event that something very serious was to afflict them suddenly. By having an estate plan set in place, it also eliminates much of the conflict that occurs within a family if an estate plan was absent. 


Things to Consider When Executing an Estate Plan in Florida   

When it comes to estate planning, each state is different. As for Florida, it is crucial to remember that wills can become invalid under certain conditions if one is moving from Florida to another state. This also applies for those moving from another state to Florida; even though Florida law generally honors out of state wills, it is best to consult an attorney to look over things to be sure.  


Another thing to keep in mind is that Florida is one of the nation's most particular when it comes to executing estate plans.


If specific formalities are not met within a testamentary document (another term for a will), the State of Florida very well may deem it as invalid, resulting in the testator's assets being treated as if there had not been a will in the first place. 


For the family of someone who has recently passed, finding out that a minor formality in one of the testamentary documents allows the state to do as it pleases despite the best wishes of the deceased is devastating. For this reason, it is critical that one seeks assistance from an attorney subsequent to drafting and executing any type of testamentary documents. 


Understanding the General Guidelines in Florida Statute 732.502

According to Florida Statute 732.502 (execution of wills): 

  • Be in writing.
  • Be signed by the testator.
  • Be "subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction."
  • Be "in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses" when the testator signs or acknowledges that previously signed the will or that they allowed another individual to subscribe the testator's name to it.
  • Be signed by the "attesting witnesses" in the presence of the testator and of each other. 
  • "Any will executed as a military testamentary instrument in accordance with 10 U.S.C. s. 1044d, Chapter 53, by a person who is eligible for military legal assistance is valid as a will in this state."
  • Florida Law does not require that a will be written in any specific manner so as long as "formalities required by law" are adhered to. 

Since attorneys have years of experience dealing with testamentary documents of all kinds and sorts, it is highly suggested that one hire an attorney who specializes in the execution of estate plans. By doing this, you are protecting yourself and the ones you care for. If you have further questions about executing estate plans or any other inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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