A last will and testament is a legal document that contains instructions about who gets your belongings when you die and lets you choose a guardian for a minor child. You need a will in Florida to make sure your loved ones get the assets you want them to have — otherwise, a court may determine who gets what. Even if you don’t have high value property, a will allows you to give away sentimental objects and personal belongings to the people you want to receive them.
A will is the first step to creating a solid estate plan. Live somewhere else? See our guide to making a will in your state.
Writing a will in Florida
There are a few different ways to make a will in Florida and any of them can be valid as long as the will follows the requirements set out by state law. Here are the main ways you make a Florida will from most to least expensive:
Online will maker
Florida will form
Many people choose to create a will on their own without a lawyer (like by making an online will) since it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars for an attorney to prepare one. However, some people may need to seek legal advice if they have complex estates and want to avoid estate tax or provide for a dependent beneficiary. Learn more about when to hire an estate lawyer.
Florida will form
You may be able to find a free form that you can download online to create a last will and testament for Florida. Keep in mind that free wills are typically broad, one-size-fits-all forms, which may leave more chances for the document to be challenged in court after you die. Additionally, these templates may not allow you to nominate a guardian or create a trust (testamentary trust) through your will.
Florida last will and testament requirements
These are some of the requirements for a will to be valid under Florida law:
The person writing a will must be at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor, if they are of “sound mind” (testamentary capacity).
Learn more about what a testator can do.
Witnesses and signing
Every will must be signed by the testator and two witnesses. Additionally, the witnesses must sign the will together in the testator’s presence. The witnesses can be beneficiaries of the will, but there is precedence for having a Florida will contested when you use an interested witness, so you should try to choose individuals who don’t stand to benefit. (§ 732.502)
Learn more about witnessing a will.
In Florida, the executor of an estate is referred to as a personal representative and they must be at least 18 years old, and cannot be a convicted felon or unable to perform their administrative duties. Out-of-state representatives are allowed in certain circumstances, such as when they are related to the testator. (§ 733.303)
Are handwritten wills legal?
In Florida, handwritten wills are only valid if they are properly witnessed. While a will made in another state can be valid in Florida if it follows the other state’s laws, out-of-state holographic wills are not recognized even if the other state allows them.
Oral wills, known as nuncupative wills, are also invalid in Florida. (§ 732.502)
Do you need to notarize a will in Florida?
A Florida last will and testament doesn’t need to be notarized in order for it to be valid. Notarization cannot take the place of proper witnessing outlined above. (§ 732-503)
However, if you want to include to make “self-proved” by including an affidavit it must be notarized. A self-proving affidavit makes it so your witnesses don’t need to appear in court to prove your will after you’ve died, which can greatly ease the probate process.
Learn how to get a self-proving affidavit.
Changing a will
If you want to make changes to your will, you can do so by adding a codicil, or writing a new will and destroying the old one. Keep in mind that the codicil must be signed and witnessed again in order to be valid. Florida wills can be changed up until the testator’s death.
What to get besides a will
A will is just one part of an estate plan. You may also want to consider a:
Trust, which can provide a hassle-free transfer of assets outside of probate.
Living will, which lays out what medical care you want to receive
Durable power of attorney, which gives someone the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf.
Learn more about estate planning documents.
How does Florida probate work?
After the testator dies, the will must be filed within ten days of knowledge of the death, at the circuit court in the county where they lived. (§ 732.901)
The will may also have to be probated, or brought before a judge to determine whether or not the will is valid before the estate representative can begin settling the deceased’s estate. (In Florida, smaller estates may not need to undergo a formal process.)
Learn more about when to probate a will.
What happens if you die without a will?
When someone dies without a will, they have died intestate. The Florida court will determine who receives assets based on state laws of intestate succession, and those heirs may not be who you would’ve wanted. Learn more about what happens when you die without a will.
Here is what a surviving spouse would receive under a few different circumstances:
If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:
Surviving spouse's share
Children from the surviving spouse
Children who are not descendants of the surviving spouse
1/2 of the intestate estate
Children from the surviving spouse, and stepchildren (surviving spouse's children only)
1/2 of the intestate estate
Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along to next of kin in the following order.
Children, or their children
Siblings of the decedent, or their children
Grandparents, or uncles and aunts
Descendants of a predeceased spouse
Descendants of any great-grandparent who lost their lives or property during the Holocaust
For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children per stirpes.