Do you have a last will and testament? Are you aware that everything you own is included in your estate? Research continues to tell us that around 45% of all Americans have taken the step to protect themselves, their families, and their legacies. Are you aware that if you die without a will (intestate) or without an estate plan, your family may face difficulties after you pass away in sorting out your assets, taking care of any debts you may have and knowing who you want to be in charge?
The assets in your gross estate for federal tax purposes include your home and any other real property you own, your vehicles, bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, cash value life insurance, and personal property. These may all be assets that can and will be inherited by someone else upon your passing. It does not matter if your estate is big or small, everyone has an estate and everyone needs to have an estate plan.
However, what happens if you die without a will? Unfortunately, in the absence of your creating a will and planning for the future, the state of Florida will step in with a plan to follow under its intestacy laws. We would like to review three questions on why you need a Florida will and estate plan in order to ensure your estate and the legacy you have created is passed on to your beneficiaries.
1. Who will make the decisions when you pass away? Your will serves as a set of instructions for the personal representative you name to carry out your wishes. As stated above, if you die intestate, without a will, the probate court in your county will choose someone to be your personal representative. The probate court will probably appoint the closest relative found who is willing to take on the job. However, this may not be the person you would have chosen, and he or she may not proceed with the care and deference you would have wanted for your wishes.
2. Who decides how your assets will be divided? Without a will, the state of Florida will distribute your assets according to the intestacy laws of Florida. This distribution may or may not be how you would have wished them to be distributed. The state of Florida intestacy laws usually list the order of the beneficiaries who will inherit from your estate. Your closest relatives are usually the ones to inherit, but it may depend on which family members survive you. In fact, the list may go down to your next closest relatives and even beyond. A word of caution, if you pass away without any surviving family members, your property may pass to the state of Florida.
3. Is it only about the money? No. Your will can contain provisions for your children and their care. You may also put in your will that you want to be buried in a specific manner. A last will and testament is the legal way you may make sure things go as you wish after you pass away.
Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our Stuart estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our office to learn more.