How to Change a Will in Florida

Planning and preparation ensure your will represents your complete and current wishes of what will happen to your assets, real estate, collections, and family heirlooms. 

You do not have to worry if life circumstances have changed. Once a will is completed, it is not “set in stone.” Changing a will in Florida is, in fact, possible, and multiple reasons would make altering a will necessary. 

For example, if you were in a marriage that did not work out and got a divorce, you could want to review and modify what is in your will. Another common reason is the birth of a child, and this is particularly important if you have multiple children and desire an equal distribution of inherited assets or property.

Did you buy a new home, boat, or other high-value item or collection? Changing a will is typically advised. 

One more reason: if a beneficiary or executor precedes you in death. You would need to redistribute anything bestowed to the individual in the will or name a new executor. 

These are only some of the reasons people make a change. You could have just decided to swap out who gets certain assets, property, or another utterly valid alteration.

Using a lawyer is the best approach to modifying a will, and this will ensure that it is valid and legally sound. It is already an exceedingly tough time when someone passes away, and having an unclear or quickly challenged will is an unnecessary burden for loved ones. 

Revising a Will in Florida

Changing a will in Florida can be performed in two different ways. The first way is to have an addendum added to your will. A codicil is a document used to amend the existing version with new information. For example, you are adding a beneficiary for a recently acquired property or asset. The second way is to revoke your current will and obtain and execute a new one. 

When you are wondering how to revise a will, know that specific laws in Florida might differ from other states. There are laws regarding who can create one, how it needs to be executed, and who can be witnesses and executors, among other regulations.

Qualifications for creating or changing a will: you must be at least 18 years of age (or an emancipated minor) and be of sound mind. This means you would understand the extent of property in your will, your relationships with your loved ones and beneficiaries, and the practical effect of the will

Execution of changes: the same formalities are necessary when changing a will in Florida. This includes having witnesses; any modifications, big or small, must follow these procedures to be legally valid. 

Changing the executor (personal representative): if you are changing your executor in Florida, the person must be at least 18 years of age, have never been convicted of a felony, be physically and mentally capable of performing their duties as an executor, and be a Florida resident at the time of your death or be related to you, either by blood, marriage, or adoption. This can include extended family. If you name an out-of-state executor, be sure to consult a lawyer. The laws are complicated.

Other state laws of note: 

Florida is not a community property state – it follows equitable distribution laws. The assets acquired during a marriage belong to the spouse that earned them. Although, due to Florida’s elective share law, spouses typically get 30% of the entire estate. 

Florida does not collect inheritance tax, unlike some other states. Additionally, the state does not have estate taxes either.

Understanding these laws will help you decide when to amend a will in the state.

How to Add a Codicil to Your Will

Adding a codicil to your will must be performed meticulously and precisely. This legal document is an official amendment that must adhere to Florida laws and regulations, just like a Last Will and Testament. 

Consider and decide on the specific changes when drafting the document with your lawyer. Finalize and sign the document with your lawyer and in the presence of two witnesses. The codicil will only be valid if you have at least two witnesses. The witnesses must then sign the codicil in the presence of all participants/witnesses.

Any individual of sound mind at least 18 years of age can be a witness. Although, it is generally recommended to have disinterested parties (not beneficiaries) be witnesses to avoid complications.

A codicil must be performed voluntarily, without due influence, to be valid. For example, suppose a sibling or other family member pressured you to change beneficiaries on a specific asset(s) or property(s). In that case, the codicil could be challenged in court after your death.

A codicil is often preferable to rewriting a lengthy will. This document is an effective and efficient method to modify a will while providing peace of mind that your wishes can be carried out as desired. Over time, you can add other codicils for single items to designate to a beneficiary or minor changes to your will. 

The critical takeaway to adding codicils is specificity and legal accuracy, which will help avoid unnecessary conflict between relatives or loved ones. 

Are Handwritten Changes to a Will Legal?

Some states recognize handwritten changes to wills as legal and binding. However, Florida is not one of them. 

Handwritten wills (holographic wills) or changes to wills composed entirely by hand and without any witnesses are not legal in the state. Oral wills are also not legal in Florida. 

To make sure the will is legal and valid: 

First, any handwritten wills need to be converted to an official codicil. All desired changes indicated in the handwritten document should be included. 

Then you and your attorney will thoroughly review the codicil and ensure everything is correct. Take the time to be confident in your decisions regarding the changes. 

Once finalized, all signatures with the necessary witness must be completed. 

Will a New Override an Old Will?

The process can be confusing when deciding how to change an existing will. 

A new will can override an old will – but it must be written and executed correctly.

If you execute a new will, only the updated parts will override the old one. For example, if you change the beneficiary of a particular family heirloom, such as a wedding ring. But if language is placed in the new will that specifically nullifies the old one, this will make the latest one the valid will in the eyes of the law. 

You can also deliberately shred, burn, tear up, or destroy the old will. This is called an intentional act and also negates the previous document completely. More senior, out-of-date codicils should also be destroyed. 

The best course of action if you are making a new will is to include specific language to nullify the out-of-date one. This serves to avoid confusion for relatives and other beneficiaries. 

A properly written and executed codicil also overrides previous sections in the will, which is only for the changes explicitly addressed by the codicil. Multiple codicils can be valid concurrently, but it is highly advised to consult with an attorney to be confident that the documents do not conflict with one another and are legally sound. Previous codicils that address the same items/decisions would need to be appropriately revoked for the new one to be valid.

Who Can Change a Will?

An individual can change their own will. After death, probate is the legal process conducted to gather and distribute the deceased’s assets. Historically, wills could not be changed after death, and probate law has restricted the court’s ability to change the unambiguous terms of a will.

Although, probate law has been amended to allow anyone to ask the court for changes. But there has to be “clear and convincing evidence” that a mistake or fact of the law caused the will to reflect something other than the deceased (testator’s) true intentions. This is quite difficult but possible under current Florida law. 

When changing your will in Florida, working with a good attorney can prevent a will from being successfully challenged. Attorneys knowledgeable in estate planning and probate law understand how to compose solid wills and codicils that hold up in a court of law. 


Can I Change My Will at Any Time?

People always have the right to change their minds. It is common for individuals to decide to switch a beneficiary or add a beneficiary. From cash inheritances to real estate or deciding who will be your representative, making a new will or adding a codicil can be done at any time. 

However, a competent individual must make these changes.

When someone changes a will in Florida, testamentary capacity must be present. If not, the codicil will be legally challenged. The individual making the modifications must have sufficient active memory and the cognitive ability to understand the elements of the changes to the will. (i.e., of sound mind). The testator should also understand their relation to those claiming a substantial benefit from the will.

Testamentary capacity is determined at the time the will or codicil is executed. 

Consulting with a Lawyer

When considering how to change an existing will or create a new one in Florida, consulting with a lawyer is highly recommended to ensure the decisions you make are carried out and not left up to the state. Planning and preparation with a legal professional will give you the confidence and peace of mind you need. 

The significance of having a valid will that is clear and strong in the eyes of the law cannot be overstated. Regardless of the size of your estate, you have the right to decide what happens to your money, your property, collections, or precious family heirlooms. 

Estate planning also includes discussions about attorneys’ financial and medical power, living wills, and trusts. Are you clear on what you want and need as your family grows? As you get older? The questions surrounding changing wills or making other preparations are best answered by caring and competent legal professionals. 

Wills are essential for people of all ages, from young couples to retirees. Documentation needs to be in place for guardians of children under 18 and beneficiaries for assets and special items passed down in your family for generations.

With confusion or without proper directives, tough decisions often need to be made while people are grieving. With a solid and clear will and other documentation, you also lift a heavy burden from your loved ones.

At Golden Key Law, we are here to help. We are experienced, skilled, and empathetic estate lawyers who have worked with many Floridians for their legal needs. We are with you each step of the way to answer questions and make changing a will easy to understand and affordable. 

Contact us today at 727.317.4738 for a consultation.