A will is a legally-binding statement directing who will receive your property at your death. It nominates a legal representative to carry out your specific directions and to represent your estate. However, the will covers only probate (estate) property. Many types of property or forms of ownership pass outside of probate. Jointly-owned property, property in trust, life insurance proceeds and property with a named beneficiary, such as IRAs or 401(k) plans, all pass outside of probate.
Why Should You Have Will?
- A will directs where and to whom your estate (i.e., all of the assets you own) will pass after your death. If you were to die intestate (i.e., without a will), your estate will be distributed according to Florida’s intestacy laws, going to your surviving spouse and/or lineal descendants in an set order of distribution. This order of distribution may not be consistent with your wishes or to whom you otherwise intended your estate to pass.
- Having a will enables administration of your estate to take place in a more expeditious and efficient manner. With a clear expression of your final wishes, it is easier to avoid costly, time-consuming disputes between family members as to entitlement to your assets.
- Having a will enables you to select the particular person who you would like to administer your estate in accordance with your specific instructions. This person is called your “personal representative”. One limitation on nomination of your personal representative is that if that person does not reside in the State of Florida, he or she must be a blood relative in order to qualify.
- A properly drafted and well-planned will can help reduce potential liability for estate taxes.
- Perhaps most important, a will can appoint who will take custody of and serve as guardian for your minor children(s) should you and their other parent or guardian both pass away.