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What are the witness requirements for a Florida will?

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2024 | Estate Planning

A will is perhaps the most popular testamentary document. Floridians can draft a will to name a guardian for their children or to outline who should inherit their property after their passing. Given the legal and financial impact a will could have, there are some people who might try to manipulate documents in their favor.

Certain people might attempt to manipulate or coerce a testator into giving them an over-sized portion of their estate. Other times, someone might try to fraudulently alter documents or trick someone into signing paperwork without knowing the true content of those papers. To prevent such misconduct, Florida requires witnesses for a will to be valid.

Two competent adults must serve as witnesses

According to Florida state law, a will requires the signatures of at least two competent adult witnesses. There are very few restrictions placed on who could serve as a witness. Beneficiaries and immediate family members of the testator can sign a will as witnesses. People could also have questions such as notaries or paralegals at a lawyer’s office serve as the witness to their signing. They simply need to be competent adults.

Technically, witnesses do not need to be present when someone signs the documents, although they can be. The testator can sign on their own behalf or have someone sign for them. The witnesses simply need to attest to discussing someone’s prior signing of the documents with them. They can also witness the signature of an outside party acting on behalf of the testator who is incapable of signing.

Witnesses can sign at the same time as an individual or shortly thereafter. They must sign the documents in front of the testator and in front of each other. Eventually, they might need to make a statement in Florida probate court attesting to the mental state of the testator at the time that they drafted and signed the documents.

If there are questions about someone’s testamentary capacity or concerns about fraud, witnesses can help resolve those issues. Understanding and complying with the state’s requirements for testamentary documents can help people create more effective and authoritative estate plans.