Creating a will or estate plan ranks among the true acts of kindness. You are considering friends and loved ones in a thoughtful way. You’re also taking control of how you’d like assets distributed and removing any potential disagreements between those you leave behind. It’s important to set up a will or estate plan and here are just a few things you can accomplish or avoid by having one in place.
Danger of Not Having a Will
In Florida, if you don’t leave a will or estate plan, your assets will be reviewed in probate court and divided by a judge in accordance with the state’s intestacy statute. Court costs and legal fees will be subtracted from your estate and there’s no guarantee things will be divided up in a fashion you’d like. Under the Florida statute regarding estates:
- A spouse could be awarded all the assets.
- A spouse could get only half, while the remaining 50 percent could be divided among other heirs.
- Your assets could be divided equally among relatives, regardless of your personal connection.
- If you have no heirs, the state could absorb your entire estate.
Creating a valid will or estate plan allows you to give loved ones the specific assets you want them to have.
Periodic Updates Are Important
Establishing a will isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it task. As time passes, things change. Your financial portfolio may increase, equity in homes grow and the needs of children evolve. A document created when a child was a toddler won’t reflect the needs of a teenager or one that has graduated college. Marriage, divorce, remarriage, health issues, all these things impact how wealth and assets should be distributed. That’s why it’s imperative that you review the will on a yearly basis or anytime an important financial or life change occurs. You’ll sleep better knowing your affairs are in order.
Personal Property Matters
When talking about will and estate plans, big ticket items seem like the major concern. To some degree they are. Homes, stocks, bonds, and automobiles may have significant monetary value. But the things that warm our hearts aren’t necessarily expensive. Think about the handmade decorations that you created with children or grandchildren. Heirlooms that have sentimental value may be more important to loved ones than any amount of money. When creating a will, it’s important to thoughtfully itemize cherished possessions and make sure they are passed along with love and care.
Future of Your Minor Children
It’s sad to think about, but someone will need to take care of your child if you pass early. Naturally, you’ll want that person to be caring and install important values and, perhaps, matters of faith.
People in a circle of family and friends know each other at an intimate level that outsiders do not. Habits, demeanor, perspectives on life, work and how they interact with other family members are important. However, the courts do not have such refined information at their disposal. If you fail to establish a will or estate plan detailing the child’s legal guardian, the court will use its standard assessment of candidates. These things include:
- Standing in the family
- Criminal record
- Work history
- Living environment
If you have someone in mind, it’s important to have a will that designates them as the future legal guardian.
A Parent’s Job Never Ends
While every parent loves their child, it’s important to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses. Some are terrific money managers and others lack a certain level of frugality. If you have a genuine concern that assets will be squandered due to lack of maturity, set up a trust with an experienced attorney that doles out money over time. For instance, you can set instructions for an executor to handle things such as:
- Living Expenses: A reasonable monthly amount can be distributed or a credit card with a hard limit can be issued and paid off each month by the estate.
- College: An executor can pay tuition directly and dole out resources for expenses such as books, housing and travel.
- Major Life Events: Significant life-changing events such as marriage can be accounted for and expenses distributed to pay for them.
- Major Purchases: Things like homes and other sound investments can be identified as things that the estate could purchase and maintain until the child reaches a designated age.
They say that you never stop being a parent. A strategically designed will or estate plan can help keep your child financially secure.
If you need to create a will or update and refine an existing one, it’s important to work with an experienced attorney. At the France Law Firm, we are here to help.