The looming New Year presents the perfect opportunity to get round to some of those tasks and life changes that you’ve been procrastinating. And, if there’s one task that Americans are good at putting off, it’s drafting a will.
A recent study reveals that approximately 70% of Americans don’t have a will. Of this group, almost half said that the reason they lacked a will was simply that they hadn’t got around to drafting one. Yet it is difficult to overstate the importance of planning for what will happen to your assets once you pass on. As the discussion below will make clear, if there is one New Year’s resolution that you should set for yourself this year, it’s drafting your will.
Protect Your Family From Unnecessary Stress And Conflict
Drafting a will isn’t only about clarifying your wishes for how your property ought to be distributed after your death. It’s also about limiting the risk of conflict breaking out between family members at a time when they are already likely to be experiencing significant emotional distress. For this reason, it is not only important that you draft a will but that your will is clear and unambiguous and deals with all the property in your estate (your ‘estate’ is everything you own at the time of your death, including property, money, personal items, and even legal rights).
Remember that in times of bereavement, even usually level-headed family members may make an unwise emotional decision to institute legal proceedings. You can’t be certain of how your family will respond to their grief after you pass – but what you can do is make your wishes as clear as possible so that family members are dissuaded from contesting your will.
Make Your Wishes Known
In terms of Florida law, when someone dies without a will, they die ‘intestate’. This means that the distribution of their assets will be regulated by Florida’s intestate laws, which stipulate the order in which surviving family members must inherit from the deceased person (or ‘decedent’). Usually, the decedent’s surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate. If they have no spouse, the estate will be distributed among their children.
While intestate law serves an important function, it is a blunt instrument. Many of the rules it stipulates may be ill-suited to your particular circumstances and wishes. For example, if you have recently separated from a spouse but are not yet divorced, your spouse will still receive everything if you pass away, even though your marriage was in the process of dissolution. Likewise, even if you have a very close relationship with your step-children, they will not receive any portion of your estate in terms of intestate law (only your biological children will inherit). Drafting a will gives you the opportunity to make clear who should get what and allows you to leave assets to beneficiaries not recognized by intestate law.
Look After The Interests Of Your Minor Children
Another important matter to consider is the well-being of your minor children – particularly if you are the only parent with custody or their other parent is already deceased. If you die intestate as a single parent, there will be no instructions indicating who should become your children’s guardian. This will also be the case if you are married and co-parenting, but you and your spouse die simultaneously without a will. The benefit of drafting a will is not only that you can clearly stipulate who should become the guardian of your children but also that you can provide for their financial stability. Many people choose to include provisions in their will that establish a testamentary trust for any surviving minor children. This ensures that the property you leave to your children will be safely and appropriately managed in their interests by a trustee until they reach adulthood.
Plan For The Worst With A Living Will
Nobody wants to think about what their death will be like. But the sad reality is that many people suffer unnecessarily because they have not created a living will. Drafting a will gives you an opportunity to think about including a living will, which will record your decisions regarding how you wish to be treated for certain health conditions. For example, you can include a provision in your living will in terms of which you refuse medical treatment, which will prolong your life when you are in a permanent vegetative state. A living will also allows you to appoint a healthcare surrogate – a person who you trust to make decisions concerning your health on your behalf when you no longer have the capacity to make these types of decisions yourself.
How To Get Started On Drafting Your Will
In terms of Florida law, it’s perfectly acceptable for individuals to draft their own wills. This might be a good option for you if you have a very simple estate plan and only one beneficiary. However, if your estate is more complicated – for example, you have many different types of assets, have business interests, or want many different family members to benefit under your will – then it is best to consult with an established wills attorney. They have the legal acumen to ensure that your will is clearly formulated and the knowledge and experience to help you provide for more complex legal structures, like testamentary trusts, in your will. There are also various formalities that must be complied with in order for a will to be valid and effective in law, and your attorney can help to make sure that your will meets these requirements.
Draft Your Will With A Reputable Wills And Estates Attorney In Coral Springs, FL
We at the offices of Gary I. Handin have been assisting Floridians with drafting their wills for many decades. Over years of legal practice, we’ve seen how the decision not to leave a will, or leaving behind an ambiguous will, can have terrible financial and emotional consequences for a person’s family. There’s no better way to start the New Year than by sitting down for a consultation with our trusted wills lawyer, Gary I. Handin. We’ll help you ensure that your family’s best interests are taken care of after you pass, when you’re no longer around to do so yourself. Give us a call at 1-877-815-4560 to find out more about our estate planning services.