A Will is one of the most important documents you should have. Without it, the State of Florida, through the local court, will decide who will administer your assets, who will receive your property, and who will take care of your minor children when you die. A Will or a Revocable Living Trust is essential for parents of minor children, second or subsequent marriages, and long-term partnerships. A Will allows you to appoint a guardian for minor children and someone to take care of the money and property until they turn 18 (or older). A Will allows you to make provisions for unmarried partners, charitable bequests, trusts for special needs children, his/hers/ours children, and direct who should receive certain assets (e.g. diamond bracelet to a favorite sister). And a Will is not written in stone until you die. During your life, you may change it as many times as your situation changes. And situations do change, so please review your Will approximately every five years.
Why a Will?
People often make the mistake of thinking that because they do not own much, they do not need a Will. In very few cases, this may be true. But in the majority of situations, a Will is what tells the court what YOU want done with whatever you have – especially your children and what you leave your children. We have all seen recent cases in the news where someone did not have documents, or their documents did not expressly or adequately state what was to happen with the person’s body, assets, or children; or left it open to family arguments over who should control the settlement process. By having a properly drafted Will, much of the confusion and potential for arguments is eliminated. Challenges are still possible, but the probability of them is greatly reduced.
Without a Will
Many people do not realize that if they die without a Will (called intestate), spouse, or children, the court will appoint the most likely person to step forward and qualify to serve as Personal Representative. Then, whatever you own will be distributed to your parents. If your parents are not living, it will go to your siblings. If you don’t have siblings, the tree will branch out to aunts, uncles, cousins, and other distant family members. If you die without a Will, but you have a spouse and children, then most likely your spouse will be appointed Personal Representative, and the spouse and children will then share the distribution of your property depending on certain factors. In many cases, the resulting distribution is not what YOU wanted to have happened. What happens to a long-term partner? What about the his, hers, and ours kids? What if someone is incapacitated or a drug addict and should not receive anything? No Will, no control.
A Professional Will
People also often make the mistake of thinking that they can get a software program or a Will kit from the office supply store, or go online, and do it themselves. However, because they are not trained in the intricacies of probate and estate tax law, and the nuances of Florida homestead law, they could end up making some disastrous errors in their documents. There may be conflicting clauses in the document, or the intent is not clear, or maybe it was not signed with the appropriate formalities and the whole thing is invalid. Just as you would not do surgery on yourself, please do not write your own Will. See a qualified professional.
Your Will Now
If you use your imagination on the above scenarios, you can see how the lack of proper planning and documents can lead to family arguments and unintended results. To have your situation evaluated and your Will drafted according to your wishes, please contact us.