The Importance of a Will
An estate plan is a set of documents that define and determine how your assets will be distributed throughout and after your life. Although most people acknowledge the importance of an estate plan, most people do not have one in place.
People often do not believe that an estate plan is an urgent need as they likely have many years before they pass on. As we all know, life can change dramatically in an instant. It is best for you and your loved ones to develop, implement, and regularly update an estate plan to prepare your family for your passing. You should speak with an attorney to create a personalized estate plan for you to help take care of your ones upon your passing.
Most people have heard of a will and have general knowledge of its purpose. Simply put, a will defines how your assets (belongings) are distributed to your loved ones upon your death. A will is an important part of an estate plan. This blog talks about the legal basics of a will in Florida and the importance of having a will in place prior to your passing.
Legal Basics of a Will
A Will is a written document directing the person assigned to handle your affairs on how to distribute your property after your death. Under section 732.501, Florida Statutes, “Any person who is of sound mind and who is either 18 or more years of age or an emancipated minor may make a Will.”
A Will must be executed in accordance with section 732.502, Florida Statutes which requires that the Will be executed in the presence of two (2) witnesses. The person making the Will is considered the testator. The testator generally appoints a person to handle his/her affairs. This person is called the Personal Representative. In order to serve as a Personal Representative in Florida, a person must meet certain requirements.
Generally, a will directs how the testator’s be distributed upon his death. It can also provide specific instructions on how to locate certain assets such as safety deposit boxes, family heirlooms, or other property. Additionally, there are certain provisions of a Will that are prohibited and may not be enforceable (such as disinheriting the testator’s surviving spouse). This is why it is important that you consult with an attorney in drafting your will to ensure that your wishes will be carried out upon your death.
Updating or Revoking a Will
Importantly, you are not “stuck” with a Will once it is executed. A Will can be updated or revoked until the death of the testator. A testator may change the status of his or her Will by creating a new Will, creating a “codicil” (or amendment) to the current Will, or revoking a Will.
A codicil is simply an amendment to the previous will. In order for a codicil to be valid, it must be executed with the same formalities as the Will. You cannot make changes to your Will by making written notes or crossing out certain provisions. In fact, crossing out or writing in notes on your current Will may invalidate part of the Will or the entire Will altogether. Thus, if you wish to make a change to your Will, you should advise your attorney to draft up a new Will or codicil with the necessary changes.
Additionally, if you have an out-of-state Will, you should have it reviewed by a Florida attorney to ensure that it is properly executed according to Florida’s laws and will be enforceable upon your death. If you have any questions on whether you have a valid Will, you should contact your attorney to have your Will reviewed.
Dying Without a Will
If a person dies without a Will or with an invalid Will (such as an invalid, out-of-state will), he/she is considered to have died “intestate”. When someone dies intestate, his/her estate passes through probate, which is a court-supervised process that distributes his/her assets according to Florida’s default statutory provisions. This distribution scheme may look different from the way you would like your assets to be passed on to your loved ones. Therefore, it is important to memorialize your wishes in a valid Will prior to your passing.
Estate Planning at Boatman Ricci
A Will is one important part of an estate plan. Even if you decide to create a trust (read more about that here) so that your assets do not pass through the probate process, a Will may still be necessary to ensure that your end-of-life wishes are fulfilled.
The attorneys at Boatman Ricci can help you create an estate plan that is right for you or update your current estate plan to better meet your needs. If you would like assistance with estate planning, contact Boatman Ricci at 239-330-1494 to schedule a consultation.
THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE READER SHOULD CONSULT WITH KNOWLEDGEABLE LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW APPLICABLE LAWS APPLY TO SPECIFIC FACTS AND SITUATIONS. BLOG POSTS ARE BASED ON THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION AT THE TIME THEY ARE WRITTEN. SINCE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LAWS OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES MAY HAVE CHANGED SINCE PUBLICATION, PLEASE CALL US TO DISCUSS ANY ACTION YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS A RESULT OF READING THIS BLOG.