A Last Will & Testament, also just called a “Will,” is the foundation to any good estate plan. This legal document is designed to cover all the basics and is the easiest way to ensure your family is protected. When crafted properly, it can eliminate any confusion over the distribution of your estate and it can ensure your family has access to your assets after you’re gone.
The most common use of a Will is to explain how your assets will be distributed. This includes everything from family heirlooms to your car and real estate to your bank account, and you can even include any charitable contributions you want to make here. Financial accounts that have a Named Beneficiary – such as your 401(k) or a life insurance policy – are normally not included in your Will as they already have a designated chain of distribution. If that designation fails however, the proceeds could become an asset of probate and fall under the terms of your Will.
Wills can also be used to name the person you want to oversee this distribution (known as a Personal Representative or in other states an “executor”), specify who will care for your minor children, and it can pass your assets to a Living Trust if you so desire.
If you pass away without a Will, these decisions fall to the state and a judge would decide who gets what and how it will be distributed. The court also has the power to appoint a personal representative to manage your estate and be warned, this may or may not be someone you would have chosen. In fact, you may not even know the individual assigned to your estate. The entire process is carried out in accordance with Florida law; there are no exceptions.
Now, a Will can’t do everything, such as:
- Provide instructions for your funeral (there are other ways to do this however)
- Bequeath property that is jointly held or property that is already held in a Living Trust
- Avoid probate
- Reduce your taxes
A Will is also not the place to arrange for care of a child with special needs. You can use your Will to designate a guardian if that child is a minor, but to provide long-term care and financial support, you’ll need to set up a Special Needs Trust.
Fortunately, Spiegel Law, PLLC, offers free consultations, so you don’t have to do this alone. Call us today and we’ll walk you through the estate planning process. We’ll talk about your needs and help you create an estate plan that gives you and your family peace of mind!