Making a last will and testament is a part of life that many people avoid. However, dying without a will causes unnecessary inconvenience to family members at a time when they are already stressed. Dying intestate—the term for dying with no will—also means that your wishes regarding your property will not be carried out.

When you do not have a will, or you have one that needs updating, contact a West Miami wills lawyer. Our knowledgeable probate attorney can learn your plans for your property after your death and help you create a document that will carry out your wishes.

Requirements for Making a Valid Will

The person creating the will is called the testator and they must be “of sound mind” when they create a will or else it will not be valid. If a testator has a physical or mental health condition that affects their mind, they still could create a will if they are lucid at the time they make and sign the will. In these circumstances, a West Miami wills attorney might question the testator to ensure they understand what they are signing.

A will could be written by hand, typed, or in an electronic document. For paper wills, the testator must sign the document in front of two witnesses who also must sign in front of each other. Any competent adult can be a witness, but it is preferable if the witness is not a relative or beneficiary of the will.

When a will is electronic, the testator and the witnesses can provide electronic signatures. The signing takes place in real time over a video connection and there are precautions to ensure the identity of the testator and the validity of the will.

What Happens if You Die Intestate?

The property and debts someone leaves behind when they die is called their estate. Every estate must have someone to manage it and pay the deceased person’s debts. When someone has a will, they can name someone they trust to be their executor and carry out the wishes in the will. When someone does not have a will, the Probate Judge names someone to handle these tasks.

When a person has a will, they have the freedom to leave their property to whomever they choose, except they cannot completely disinherit a spouse. A West Miami attorney could offer more information about a spouse’s share in the last will and testament. However, when someone dies without a will, Florida Statute § 732.102 says a surviving spouse would receive at least one-half of the estate. If the deceased person left no descendants or their only descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse, the spouse receives all the estate.

A person might prefer that a parent, sibling, friend, or more distant relatives get some part of their estate, or they might wish to leave funds to an educational institution or a charity. There also might be items of sentimental value that someone might wish to leave to a particular person. A will allows the testator to make gifts and distribute property in the way they choose.

Naming a Guardian in the Will

One of the most important functions of a will is it allows a testator with young children to name a guardian to raise them if both parents die. The will can also leave property to the guardian to offset the expense of raising the testator’s children. A parent could leave property for their children in a trust or other account that the child can access when they turn 18.

Naming a guardian is critically important because the social services agency takes custody of children who do not have guardians. The agency will try to find a family member willing and able to raise the children, but sometimes one or more children will end up in foster care.

If a parent has children with multiple co-parents, guardianship can get complicated. Typically, a surviving parent assumes custody of their child when the other parent dies. However, in complex families, following this rule might mean siblings are raised separately. A West Miami wills attorney could explain the laws about guardianship and help a parent find a solution that works for their family.

Create a Will With a West Miami Attorney Today

A will can provide your family members with what they need after you pass away. If you have young children, a will can ensure they are raised by a caring person you know and trust.

It is always best to be prepared for the unexpected. If you do not have a will, or if the will you have is outdated, contact a West Miami wills lawyer today. You can get a free case evaluation when you talk with The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm.