What is a Will?

A will is a written legal document that states your final wishes regarding the disposition of your estate, i.e., your property and assets at death.  Everyone should have a will.  If you die without a will, also known as “intestate,” state law will determine who gets your property.  This often causes fighting among family members and can be costly.

According to a survey completed by the AARP, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don’t have a will.  Creating a will is one of the must important things you can do for your loved ones.  Making sure your wishes are put onto paper will give you peace of mind that your possessions end up with the person you want.  It allows you to stay in control over who gets your property and also saves your family time and, more importantly, money.

What is an Estate?

In simple terms, your estate is everything you own.  This could be your residence, vacation home, stock, automobiles, jewelry, pictures, and the like.  If it belongs to you then it is part of your estate.

What can you put in a will?

A will is the best way to control how your assets are handled when you die.  You decide who gets your property instead of the law making the decision for you.  A personal representative is named who will be in charge of manages the estate and makes distributions to your heirs, subject to certain limitations.  In Florida, the personal representative must qualify under Florida law which generally means that the person has not been found guilty of committing a felony, is a resident of Florida, or if not a resident, related to you.

Trusts can be established in your will whereby a certain portion of your estate or all of the estate will be kept intact with income distributed or accumulated for the benefit of the stated trust beneficiaries.  Minors can be cared for in this manner without the expense of a public guardianship and you can name a guardian for any minor children.

Real estate and other assets can be sold without court proceedings so long as the will provides and gifts can be made to charity.  If the estate is taxable, then you decide who will bear the burden of the estate taxes, rather than the law.

What if you do not have a will?

If you die without a will, known as dying “intestate,” your property will be distributed according to law.  The law is fixed and your property will pass according to the law, even if you told people something otherwise while you were living.  In this case, a probate will be opened and a personal representative appointed by the court to administer the estate according to Florida law.  This will likely increase costs to your loved ones and tie up assets that could have easily passed if you had a will.

How long is a will effective?

A will remains “good” until it is changed or revoked, so long as done in a manner provided by law.  Your will may be changed as often as you like and should always be updated if you have a change in circumstances such as birth of children, death, marriage, divorce, or increase in wealth and assets.

The drafting of a will involves an extensive knowledge of the law and require years of professional experience.  While there are free and cheap legal places where anyone can get a form, by consulting an experience attorney you may avoid the numerous pitfalls that a trained attorney knows to avoid.  You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make sure that you have a legal document that properly reflects your wishes and that will ensure your loved ones are cared for after you are gone.

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Shupe Dhawan
888 SE 3rd Ave., Suite 202
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Call: (954) 507-7220

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