If you were to die today, do you know exactly what would happen to your assets? If you’re not sure, it’s time to consult with a qualified wills attorney.
A will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is the foundation of most estate plans. This document is the most common method of distributing property after death. It’s one of the best ways to protect your loved ones and ensure your assets are passed according to your wishes.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions regarding how a will works and what a wills attorney does. Following are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about wills.
Do You Really Need a Wills Attorney?
When most people start thinking about drafting a will, their first question is whether they really need a wills attorney. While there are many websites where you can find a “DIY” will document, this is never a good idea.
There are many simple mistakes that can cause the courts to deem your will invalid. This includes failing to have it properly witnessed or including invalid provisions. Working with a qualified wills attorney will ensure that your loved ones don’t experience any unpleasant surprises after you pass away.
What Are the Key Provisions of a Will?
There are three primary functions of a Last Will and Testament. First, it allows you to name the beneficiaries who will receive your assets. A beneficiary can be an individual person or an organization, such as a charity or your alma mater. You can choose to give each of your assets to a specific beneficiary or give each beneficiary a certain percentage of your estate.
If you have minor children, you can also use your will to designate a guardian. This is the person who will care for them until their 18th birthday. Some parents choose the same person to oversee the child’s financial assets and to care for the child. Others separate these duties. Your wills attorney will help you weigh the pros and cons of each option so you can make the best decision for your family.
Finally, your will allows you to name a personal representative, who is responsible for making sure the instructions in your will are followed.
Depending on your needs, your wills attorney may add other provisions. For example, your will may include instructions for establishing a testamentary trust upon your death. It may also have a “pour over” provision, which titles the remainder of your assets in the name of your trust after your death.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
If you die in the state of Florida without a will, you’re said to have died “intestate.” In this case, the state of Florida will distribute your assets according to the state’s legal codes. This is based on a rigid formula that cannot be modified. If your loved ones come forward to object or provide information about your wishes, the courts will not respond.
There are many complexities that can influence who will receive your assets if you die intestate. This isn’t a chance you want to take! Consulting with a wills lawyer is a simple process that can save your loved ones from a lot of heartache down the line.
If you don’t have any relatives, it’s even more important to consult with a wills lawyer. He or she will help you draft a will that leaves your assets to your favorite charity, organization, or to a close friend. Otherwise, if no living relatives are located, the State of Florida will inherit your entire estate.
Is a Will the Only Estate Document You Need?
While a will is a great first step, it’s only one part of a solid estate plan. You also need other important documents like a living will, health-care surrogate, and power of attorney. Depending on your circumstances, you may also need a revocable and/or irrevocable trust and other estate planning documents.
Consult with a Wills Attorney Today
When properly drafted, a will is a simple document that can give you and your family the peace of mind you need. Elizabeth Barber is a knowledgeable Florida wills attorney. She provides a full suite of estate planning services to clients in Sarasota, Bradenton, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more.