Although death is one of those topics we’d all prefer to avoid, it’s one of those necessary conversations to have when it’s time to think about your estate plan. Often times, the integral part of an individual’s estate plan is their will.
A person’s will, more formally known as a Last Will & Testament, is an important document for a number of reasons. It allows you to determine exactly how you want your estate to be divided amongst your heirs when you pass away. If you die without a will in the state of Florida, the state has a statutory scheme that will dictate how your estate will be inherited, which is known as intestate succession.
These laws lay out the following: If you have children and no spouse, your children will inherit everything in equal proportion. If your spouse is still alive when you pass away, and all of your children are shared with that spouse, your spouse inherits your full estate. Children from a former marriage? They’ll inherit half and your spouse will inherit the other half. If you don’t have children or a spouse, the state next looks to your parents. Intestate succession continues on to determine the more distant family member(s) who might inherit your estate.
If you have no family members that are described by the law, then your estate will escheat to the state. This means that any property will be sold and the proceeds will benefit Florida’s state school fund. Thus, while intestate succession has been determined to be fair by Florida’s legislature, it may not be the right fit for your family structure or your personal wishes.
Executing a will leaves the decision as to who will reap the benefits of your hard earned money up to you. This means that is is especially important to have a will when you intend to leave your assets in a way that doesn’t align with what the Florida Statutes have laid out. For example, you may have an estranged child who you would prefer not be included in any sort of monetary pay out when you pass away. You may have a sibling or friend, or a long-term partner to whom you were never legally married and would like to ensure that they are left with a portion (or the entirety) of your estate. You may want to leave money to your grandchildren for their college education. Additionally, you may have a charitable organization that you wish to leave a gift for upon your death. A will allows you to do all of this and more.
It is important to contact a Florida licensed attorney if you’d like to create or update a will. There are statutory requirements as to the proper execution of a will that an experienced estate planning attorney will be familiar with. Contrary to popular belief, creating a will is not a significant expense. However, it is a smart investment which will give you peace of mind now, and most importantly, when you need it later.
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