Estate planning attorneys in Florida often encounter many misconceptions when it comes to wills. A will is a legal document that provides instructions for the distribution of a person’s assets upon their death. It is an essential tool for ensuring that one’s assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes. At its most basic, a will is a document that provides instructions for distributing your assets after you pass away. It can be very straightforward or complex to accomplish many different functions.
When creating a will, it is important to understand that it can be used to do one or more of the following:
- Name a personal representative who will ensure that obligations are fulfilled and assets are distributed appropriately. This person will be responsible for overseeing the administration of the estate, making sure that debts are paid, and that the assets are distributed according to the instructions in the will.
- Specify instructions about gifts or debts. A will can be used to specify how debts should be paid or to provide for gifts to be made to specific individuals or organizations.
- Designate the individuals who should receive particular assets as beneficiaries. A will can be used to specify who should receive specific assets, such as personal property, or financial assets.
- Provide gifts to charitable organizations or special causes. A will can be used to provide gifts to charitable organizations or other causes that the individual wishes to support.
- Name guardians for minor children. If a person has minor children, a will can be used to specify who should be appointed as the guardian of the children in the event of the person’s death.
- Establish a trust to hold assets for minor children. A will can be used to establish a trust that will hold assets for the benefit of minor children, ensuring that the assets are protected and used for the children’s benefit.
- Create a pet trust to provide care for animals. A will can be used to establish a trust to provide for the care of a person’s pets in the event of their death.
- Pour assets into a trust to avoid probate. A will can be used to pour assets into a trust, which can help to avoid the probate process.
It is important to understand that on its own, a will cannot prevent your estate from going through the probate process. However, if you create a revocable living trust to hold assets and some of your property does not make it into that trust, a “pour over” clause in a will can ensure that those assets move into the trust. The estate would essentially show no assets and, therefore, would not need to be probated.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will in Place?
If you do not have a valid will at the time of your death, the intestate succession laws of Florida determine who will receive many of your assets. These laws are explicit about which relatives will inherit certain shares of the property. This means that if you do not have a will, your assets may be distributed in a way that is not in accordance with your wishes. Additionally, in the absence of a will, the court will determine who should handle your estate and who assumes the role of guardian for your children. If you allow the legal system to administer these critical decisions, the result may be at odds with your preferences. This can lead to disputes among family members and make estate administration more difficult and time-consuming.
The Importance of Establishing a Will
There are a few situations where it is especially crucial to establish a valid will. First, if you want to leave property to a partner who is not your legal spouse, you should memorialize that designation in a will.
Talk to a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to Create the Right Will for Your Situation
If you’re looking to create a will that meets your specific needs and goals, it’s essential to consult with a Florida estate planning lawyer. Our team of experienced attorneys understands how to help clients assess their needs and create wills and other estate planning tools tailored to their individual situations. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you create the right will for your situation.