When Should You Review or Modify Your Estate Plan?

Your estate plan is a collection of legal documents, such as your last will and testament, trusts, advanced healthcare directives, and powers of attorney, that describe your last wishes for your end-of-life care. It’s best to work with an estate planning attorney in Orlando, like The Boutty Law Firm, to develop your estate plan and ensure all areas of your estate are accounted for. Once your plan is created, you’ll want to review and update it periodically. Below, we discuss when you should consider modifying your estate plan:

 A Few Years After Creating It

We recommend reviewing your estate plan every three to five years. Laws regarding estate planning regularly change. An Orlando estate planning attorney can help you update your plan to ensure it follows all new rules and regulations.

Change in Marital Status

Whether you’re just married or are going through a divorce, you should update your estate plan when your marital status changes. When you get married, you’ll want to add your new spouse as a beneficiary in your will and on financial accounts like IRAs, savings accounts, and 401(k)s. If you or your new spouse have children from previous relationships, you may want to include them as beneficiaries in your will and other accounts. Stepchildren aren’t considered legal heirs, so if you want them to receive a share of your estate when you pass away, you’ll need to include them in your will. You’ll also want to update your last name, if applicable. If you get divorced, you’ll want to remove your ex-spouse, stepchildren, and ex-in-laws (if applicable) from your will and other estate planning documents.

New Health Diagnosis

Comprehensive estate plans include several documents, such as advanced directives, detailing how you’d like your healthcare handled if you become incapacitated or face a terminal diagnosis. If you’re diagnosed with a specific condition such as cancer, Parkinson’s, or dementia, you’ll want to update your estate plan to include steps for your care regarding those particular conditions.


New Birth or Adoption in the Family

If you are a parent, it’s important to update your will every time you have a new child. This allows you to name a guardian for each new addition to your family and include them as a beneficiary. If you are a grandparent, consider updating your will to include your grandchildren, if desired.

 Purchasing or Selling a Large Asset

It’s important to update your estate plan after buying or selling a large asset, such as a real estate property, a luxury car, a vacation home, or a boat. If you purchased an item like this, you’ll want to include it as part of your estate and designate a beneficiary to get ownership of it after you pass away. If you sold a large asset like the ones listed above, you’ll want to account for any additional funds in your will, either by selecting a beneficiary to receive them or setting the funds aside for charitable giving. You’ll also want to update your estate plan if you start or sell a business.

Moved From Another State

Every state has its own estate planning laws. If you recently moved to Florida from another state, you’ll want to review your estate plan with an estate planning attorney in Orlando to ensure your plan remains valid in Florida. Florida Statute 732.502 specifies that wills created and deemed valid in other states are also valid in Florida, even if they don’t follow the regular guidelines of what’s considered a valid will in Florida. You’ll also want to review your other estate planning documents and update bank and account information as needed.

A Beneficiary or Your Personal Representative Passes Away

The personal representative plays a vital role in the probate process, so keeping their information updated in your estate plan is essential. If the person you chose as your personal representative passes away, you’ll want to amend your will (also called a codicil) to include a new representative. You can follow a similar process if one of your beneficiaries passes away. You’ll want to either amend the will and give that share of the estate to someone else or create an entirely new document and revoke the old one. 

Change in Economic Status

You should update your estate plan when you experience significant financial changes, such as a job promotion, job loss, retirement, winning the lottery, or inheriting funds from another estate. Assess your economic status, review what you’re leaving to beneficiaries, and decide to increase (or decrease) these amounts. You can also decide to leave a portion of your estate to charity.

How to Modify Your Estate Plan

Each estate planning document has specific parameters for updating it. For example, you can add a formal amendment or codicil to your will to update it. However, certain documents, such as advanced healthcare directives, should be replaced with entirely new documents. Your estate planning attorney in Orlando can help you determine the best steps to modify each part of your estate plan.

Estate Planning and Modification with Boutty Law Firm

Our team at the Boutty Law Firm can assist you in developing, updating, and maintaining your estate plan. Our estate planning attorneys in Orlando will help you review, update, and revoke all necessary documentation to avoid confusion about your last wishes. Call our office at 407-622-1395 or contact us online today to get started.


What to Include in a Will: 5 Topics to Cover

Wills are one of the best ways to ensure that your possessions and assets are distributed how you desire after you pass away. A last will and testament allows your family members to execute your final wishes without having to guess how you would have liked your affairs handled. Deciding what to include in a will can be a challenging task. Many people are nervous that they may forget something or unintentionally exclude a beneficiary. Below, we discuss the top five primary topics you should cover when creating your will.   

  1. Name a Personal Representative  

Personal representatives have a very important role when executing a will. They are responsible for managing the estate bank account, valuing your assets, notifying creditors and beneficiaries about probate proceedings, and distributing your possessions to beneficiaries. Your personal representative is also the primary contact between your family and the court during probate proceedings. When deciding what to include in a will, naming a personal representative is one of the most important things you should include. Choose a close family member or friend who’s comfortable with the responsibility and gets along with most of your family members. You’ll want to consider speaking with your intended representative beforehand to ensure they can take on the task.  

  1. Choose a Legal Guardian for Minor Children  

When you have minor children in your home, naming a legal guardian to take care of them is one of the most important things to include in a will.  No other estate planning document will allow you to name a guardian in the same fashion as a valid will can. If you don’t name a guardian for your children in your will, custody of them will most likely go to the surviving biological parent or a close relative who petitions for their custody if you pass away.  

  1. Divide Your Possessions  

Another item you’ll want to include in your will is naming beneficiaries for your most prized and cherished possessions. While it’s unnecessary to list out a beneficiary for every item you own, you’ll want to list who you’d like to receive many different types of assets in your will, such as family heirlooms, photographs, and jewelry. You’ll want to specify who is entitled to real property you left behind, such as cars, boats, RVs, and houses. If you own intellectual property or a business, you’ll want to include who will inherit those, also.  

  1. Allocate Funds & Financial Asset Division  

Dividing your financial assets is an essential part of what to include in your will. You’ll want to set aside funds for funeral expenses, charitable giving, and other causes that are important to you. You can also allocate funds to friends and family members for specific purposes, such as higher education tuition for your grandchildren.  

  1. Write a Letter of Instruction  

A letter of instruction is a valuable document for your friends and family members to help execute your will, though it’s not legally required. This letter should contain information that will help your family access your assets. This could include banking information, safety deposit boxes, and contact information for lawyers and bankers. You can describe the location of important documents in your home, safe combinations, and online account passwords. You can also use this letter to state your preferences for burial and funeral arrangements and address your family and friends one last time.  

Amending a Will  

Forget something after you draft your will, or need to include additional assets or beneficiaries? Wills can be modified and revoked after they are created. There are two options to modify a will. First, you can create an entirely new will and revoke the old one. You should then destroy previous versions of the will. The second way to modify a will is to create a codicil (also called an amendment). Codicils are added to the original will and allow you to change one specific element of the will without voiding the entire document. Just like when you created the will, codicils should be signed by you and two witnesses to be legally valid. It’s a good idea to review your will every three to five years and make updates as necessary.  

What to Include in a Will: Estate Planning With The Boutty Law Firm 

Don’t stress over what to include in a will. Our legal team at The Boutty Law Firm can help you draft your will and other estate planning documents. Ease the burden of handling your estate with a comprehensive estate plan. From will creation to trust formation, we can help you plan for the future. Call us today at (407) 622-1395 or contact us online to learn how we can help you with your estate planning needs.  


What Happens to Your Home After You Pass Away?

Real estate property is likely one of the biggest assets you possess. What happens to your home after you pass away depends on various factors. There are many ways to ensure your home goes to your desired beneficiaries with a comprehensive estate plan. Below, we discuss the different scenarios of what happens to your home after you pass away.

With a Will

In a will, you can name a specific beneficiary who you would like to inherit your home or other real estate property. However, the beneficiary will not be entitled to the property deed until probate proceedings conclude. During probate, the entire estate is valued, and debts are paid. As long as the home did not need to be sold to pay off estate debt, the property will go to the beneficiary you named in your will.

Without a Will

 When you pass away intestate (without a will), Florida’s intestate laws determine who is eligible to receive your assets, including any real estate property you own. The estate will go through probate just as it would if you had a will, but the intestate line of succession will specify who is entitled to the asset. The intestate line of succession is as follows:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Children and grandchildren
  •  Parents
  •  Siblings and their families (including nieces and nephews)
  • Blood relatives
  • The state

With a Mortgage

Mortgage debt is handled differently than other estate and consumer debt after you pass away. While debts from things like credit cards are paid off from the entire estate’s value, a mortgage is not required to be paid off when the person who owns it dies. Who is responsible for the mortgage varies depending on the mortgage type and what will be done with the property.

 If you had a co-signer on the mortgage, that person is responsible for making payments. If you named a beneficiary in your will to inherit your home, your beneficiary would be responsible for taking over the mortgage once the probate process is complete. If no one desires to own the house, your beneficiaries may sell it and place the profit into the estate bank account. In the meantime, your estate’s personal representative (executor) is responsible for ensuring mortgage payments are made. If the personal representative fails to make payments or no one takes over the mortgage, the bank will foreclose on the home.

When You Have Other Debts

During probate, your entire estate value is assessed (including the value of your home). After the formal notice of administration, the personal representative will notify any known creditors that the estate is in probate. Creditors have 90 days to file claims. These claims are paid from the value of the estate. If your debts equal or exceed the value of your home, it may be sold to pay off the debts.

With an Enhanced Life Estate Deed

An enhanced life estate deed (also called a Lady Bird Deed) allows you to automatically transfer property to a named beneficiary without going through probate or placing the property in a trust. These deeds give property owners complete ownership rights while alive.

With a Trust

Placing real estate assets in a trust is a common way to avoid probate. With a trust, a trustee manages the distribution of assets to named beneficiaries.

Boutty Law Firm: Central Florida Estate Planning and Real Estate Attorneys

To ensure your primary residence or other real estate property is transferred to your desired beneficiaries efficiently, you will want to create a complete estate plan. What happens to your home after you pass away depends on a well-formed estate plan. Call our office at 407-710-0461 to speak with the estate planning attorneys at the Boutty Law Firm. We handle the estate planning needs of Winter Park, Orlando, and Central Florida residents.


What Makes a Will Legal in Florida?

A will is a legal document that allows you to specify how you would like your possessions and property distributed to family, friends, and charitable organizations after you pass away. A will is the most comprehensive way to explain your last wishes to your loved ones. After passing, your will goes through the probate process to ensure its validity and properly distribute your assets. For a will to be valid in Florida, it must adhere to the requirements stated in Chapter 732.502 of the Florida Statutes. Here is how to ensure you create a legal will in Florida. 

Be Legally Eligible

The first requirement for a will to be valid in Florida is to ensure the person creating the will (called the testator) is legally eligible to create one. You must be over 18 or an emancipated minor to make a will. You must be of “sound mind” and understand the full effect of the document you create. Your will should also be made freely and voluntarily, not under the threat of force or coercion. 

Get it in Writing

Wills must be written, typed documents. Handwritten (also called holographic) or oral wills are not valid in Florida unless considered legal in another state. Wills can also be submitted and signed electronically. No official phrasing or terms need to be included in the document for it to be recognized as a will. 

Properly Signed by the Testator 

According to Florida statutes, the testator must sign a will at the end of the document to be valid. The testator can use any mark as a signature; it does not need to be their full name. However, the testator must acknowledge the mark as their signature. If the testator cannot write, they may appoint someone else to sign it on their behalf. 

Have it Signed by Two Witnesses 

Two witnesses need to sign the will for it to be valid. Witnesses can be anyone the testator desires, as long as they are mentally competent and understand what they are signing. It is recommended that the two witnesses are not named beneficiaries in the will, but this is not a requirement according to Florida law. 

Modifying a Will 

There are a few options if you previously created a valid will and want to make changes. One way is to create a new will and revoke the old one. When creating a new will, you should state that the new will revokes the older version. To avoid confusion, destroy any older versions and only keep the most recent document on hand. You can also modify a will by creating a codicil, or amendment, to the original document. Codicils work well when changing a small portion of the will without revoking the entire document. Like a will, codicils must be signed by two witnesses.

Contesting a Will 

Someone can contest a will if they believe it was made under duress or undue influence, meaning you were pressured or persuaded to make the will. A will may also be contested if a potential beneficiary believes they were unfairly left out or removed from it. 

Boutty Law Firm Creates Valid Florida Wills 

One way to ensure your will is valid is to have an experienced estate planning attorney review it. It is wise to seek legal counsel to ensure the probate process is simple and efficient for your family members. Call our office today at 407-710-0461 to schedule an appointment.

probate litigation

What is Contested Probate?

Probate is the process of executing a decedent’s will and distributing their assets to beneficiaries. While having a will is an important part of estate planning that ensures your loved ones know how you would like your estate to be handled, sometimes family members disagree about executing the will. When this happens, the will can be formally challenged in a process called contested probate. We discuss contested probate in detail below.  

Understanding Probate

Contested probate occurs when anyone with a vested interest in the decedent’s last will and testament formally challenges its validity. Someone may challenge a will if they believe they were unjustly removed from it, it was not properly executed, or it was inaccurately drafted. When probate is contested, a formal challenge (or petition) is submitted to the probate court, and a judge decides on the will’s validity. 


Reasons for contesting a will 

There are several reasons someone may contest a will. In these situations, the burden of proof lies with the person challenging the will. 

Validating the document 

For a will to be valid in Florida, it must meet the requirements stated in Florida Statute 732.502, such as being signed at the end of the document by the decedent and two witnesses. If the document was not properly signed or witnessed, it could be contested or revoked. 

Undue influence 

Undue influence is one of the most common ways wills are contested. Undue influence means that the will was drafted or altered due to forceful manipulation by someone who would substantially benefit from it. The person challenging the will must offer evidence that the decedent was pressured or persuaded into drafting the will in a particular way to benefit another person who was active in its creation. 

Improper removal

If someone believes they were unjustly removed from someone’s will, they can dispute it. The person may prove they were included in a previous version and that the decedent was removed by mistake or unjustly.


The person must be of sound mind and full mental capacity to draft a will. If someone proves that the decedent was not fully aware of the will they were preparing, it could be challenged and considered invalid. The person challenging the will would have to provide evidence that the decedent had a persistent condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s that prevented them from signing the document willfully. They may also provide evidence that the decedent suffered from delusion, meaning they were legally “insane,” which would invalidate the entire will. 

Under duress

If it is proven that someone signed or modified a will under the threat of physical harm to themselves or a loved one, the will could be challenged in court. 


A fraudulent will is made under false pretenses, such as drafting a will based on false information from a noted beneficiary.


How to contest a will 

Generally, a will can be contested within 90 days of the notice of administration, the formal start of the probate process. Beneficiaries or other interested parties may challenge a will. A formal petition must be presented to the probate court where probate is taking place (the county where the decedent resided). The petition should specify whether the will should be revoked, modified, or invalidated and why the will is challenged. Once the estate is notified, the case will be settled or go to a hearing for a judge to determine the will’s validity. 

Florida contested probate attorneys 

Challenging a will can be a complex legal process, so it is beneficial to have experienced probate attorneys at The Boutty Law Firm represent you to contest a will’s validity. Call us today at 407-710-0461 for a consultation. 

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