The Florida Bar

Wills, Living Wills

December 15, 2022

A will is a set of instructions that lists what will happen to your property once you die, names a guardian for your children and for your children’s property, how your debts and taxes will be paid, and what will happen to your pets.

The core difference between a will and a living will is the time they take effect. A will has no legal impact until after the parties in the will have died, at which time the will must be filed with a probate court. A living will takes effect while the parties are still alive.

Almost every state has the same basic requirements to create a valid will:

  • Capacity. You must have the capacity to make a will and be of “sound mind.” This means that when writing the will, you must know what property you own and what it means to leave that property to someone once you die.
  • Creation. You must draft a document (your will) that lists who will inherit your property.
  • Signature. You must sign the document.
  • Witnesses. You must have the document signed by at least 2 witnesses.]

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.