Why Your Will May Not Protect Your Minor Children or Your Legacy

Elderly man in wheelchair visiting son and grandson.

Creating your last will and testament is an essential step in securing your family’s future and ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. It is the first step in developing a strong estate plan with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that a will alone is sufficient to safeguard their minor children and protect their legacy. 

The reality, however, is that a last will and testament alone may not provide the comprehensive protection needed to ensure your children’s well-being and preserve your legacy. You need key strategies to develop a plan that can provide for both of these important parts of your life that a will, on its own, may not be able to accomplish. Let us not only explore the limitations of a will alone here in our blog but also discuss alternative strategies to better protect both your minor children and legacy.

First, we want to address the limitations of a last will and testament by itself. While a will is a crucial legal document that allows you to appoint guardians for your minor children and distribute your assets, it has its limitations. These are just a few of the reasons a will alone may not be sufficient:

  • Inability to avoid probate. A will must go through the probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly. 
  • Probate delays. Probate is not a quick process. It may take months or even years before your beneficiaries receive their inheritance the way you intend for them to. This can cause financial strain and uncertainty, especially for minor children who rely on immediate financial support.
  • Contestability and legal battles. Wills are subject to contestation, especially if disgruntled family members or other parties believe they were unfairly excluded or not adequately provided for.  This could lead to costly legal battles, potentially diminishing your estate and disrupting your intended legacy.
  • Guardianship limitations. While you can designate guardians for your minor children in your will, the court still needs to validate your choice. If someone challenges your guardianship nomination or if the court finds the designated guardians unfit, they may appoint someone else whom you wouldn’t have preferred to care for your children.
  • Guardian only appointed upon death.  When you name guardians in your will, those provisions are only triggered upon your death.  But what if a guardian is necessary due to your incapacity?  Other legal documentation is required to cover this scenario.  

Second, we want to address legacy planning beyond your will. While a last will and testament is an essential component of Florida estate planning, it is crucial to explore other options to preserve your legacy effectively. When you work with our office, we may discuss with you additional strategies including, but not limited to, ones like these:

  • Revocable trusts. A revocable trust can offer a more comprehensive way to manage and distribute your assets during your lifetime and after your passing, bypassing probate and reducing administrative costs.
  • Establishing legacy trusts for minor children. To better protect your minor children, setting up a trust is often a more effective approach. Trusts allow you to appoint a trustee, who will manage and distribute assets to your children according to your instructions.
  • Charitable giving and tax avoidance. Establishing a charitable foundation or making charitable bequests can leave a lasting impact on causes that are important to you, ensuring your legacy extends beyond your immediate family. It is also critical to understand that these trusts can involve significant tax avoidance strategies and further protect your legacy.

While a will is a vital starting point for Florida estate planning, it may not offer complete protection for your minor children or for the preservation of your legacy. To achieve these goals, it is crucial to seek the guidance of an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who can help you create a comprehensive plan tailored to your unique circumstances.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our 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 offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.