Clients who are moving or have moved from New York to Florida frequently ask if the wills prepared for them in New York are valid. The short answer is yes, they are. Florida attorneys may tell clients differently, but the reality is that as long as one can produce a sworn affidavit stating that the will was executed in New York, in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, the New York document will be accepted by the Florida courts. The rule generally is that as long as you signed a will which is valid in the state where you executed it (assuming you were a resident of that state), then it can be probated anywhere.
Probating a will generally in Florida, however, is a much lengthier and more complicated process than probating the will in New York or even New Jersey. The simple truth is that the courts in Florida have many more requirements in connection with the probate process than other states. Even after the will has been probated, there is a long closing process, which includes having to publish a notice to creditors, letting the Florida state health agency know that the person passed away, filing an inventory of assets, etcetera.
A simple way of avoiding probate in Florida, for most assets, is to have beneficiaries on your accounts. Making your heirs joint owners is generally not a good idea, because now the person you have added to the account becomes a legal owner. If that person gets sued, divorced, or dies, it creates all sorts of problems. Naming beneficiaries is definitely a better idea. Another option is a revocable trust, which is also particularly a good idea if one owns real property in the State of Florida.
In short, a New York will is perfectly valid in the State of Florida; however, the probate process there is much lengthier, more difficult, and results in higher expenses.