Estate planning consists of organizing legal solutions to foresee and address practical problems. There are no laws mandating that one put in place a Final Will and Testament, to use one of the most common estate planning documents as an example––but there are plenty of good reasons why individuals should be proactive with end-of-life documents and take steps to ensure that those used are designed to secure their legacy and protect their beneficiaries as efficiently as possible. If you would like assistance putting together an estate plan, or would like to learn more about what estate planning tools, such a will, would be best for your situation, please consider reaching out to the Florida estate planning attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A. by calling (561) 677-8384 to schedule your private consultation.
Is There a Difference Between a Last Will and Testament and a Will?
Many people think of estate planning as having a Last Will and Testament, also sometimes called a Final Will and Testament. A will is an excellent tool to have as a starting point, but often, there are other estate planning methods that offer excellent support to a will. That being said, because a will is often used as the foundational document in an estate plan, it is important for anyone evaluating their own estate planning needs to first understand what a will is and understand that a last will and testament and a will are not always identical, as explained below:
Last Will and Testament
This legal document goes into effect after one’s death and dictates how one’s estate will be distributed at that time. A last (or final) will and testament is revocable and can be changed up until the time of one’s death.
This legal document is in effect during one’s life and is used to explain a person’s wishes at the point in their life where they can no longer be independent and speak for themselves. A living will generally speaks to medical choices that may become necessary should a person become incapacitated. As long as a person has their mental capacity, they can decide to change or revoke a living will.
What Happens if a Person Dies Without a Will?
The question of what happens to a person’s estate if they do not have a will is a good one. The answer underscores why it is critical that a living or final will and other estate planning documents be established long before one is not of sound mind or without good health.
In the absence of a sound estate plan or at the very least a final will and testament, the distribution of the assets and the wealth a person has acquired over their lifetime will be out of their control. Upon death, their estate will be determined by state law and the courts. This means that it might be very likely that the true intentions and wishes a person has for their estate will not come to fruition. The government will make the critical decisions about who gets what, in accordance with the intestacy laws of the individual’s state of residence. The probate process is always public; in the case of a decedent who died intestate, it is also often protracted, and may be attended by great distress and financial strain for the estate’s heirs, as they could face long and drawn-out legal battles concerning disputes.
When Is a Will a Legal Document?
Simply grabbing a piece of paper and writing down one’s wishes for how they want their assets to be handled upon death is not going to be enough. A will must be a legal document to provide any amount of protection and assurance that things will be done according to one’s direction. In the State of Florida, the probate code indicates the following requirements for making a legal will pursuant to the law:
- The person creating the will must be a legal adult, or 18 years of age or older.
- The person creating the will must be of sound mind.
- There must be two witnesses. Both the creator of the will and the witnesses must be present when the will is signed.
- Any oral or handwritten wills without witnesses are not recognized by the state of Florida.
- Florida does allow wills that are witnessed to be made on physical paper or in a digital format.
Estate planning can be a complicated process to undertake alone. There are several considerations to think about when choosing the right mechanisms to fully achieve one’s goals and create a sound plan that will save time and trouble for all involved. This is why it can be advantageous to enlist the help of a professional trained in and experienced with estate planning. The attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A. can answer your questions about estate planning in Florida and provide resources and guidance as to what may be the most strategic approach for fully executing your wishes.
Who Should Have a Will?
The simplest and easiest answer to who should have a will is that every legal adult should have a final will and testament. Neither old age nor wealth is necessary to warrant the creation of a will. All people should consider putting guidance in place, because even the very near future is always uncertain; at any time, a single unforeseen event may dramatically alter the course of one’s life or become the reason that life is ended in the blink of an eye. Estate planning documents like wills and trusts act to continue one’s legacy and make the aftermath of one’s passing easier and less taxing for those left behind.
Speak With a Florida Estate Planning Attorney Today
The United States Census Bureau reports that there are well over 330 million people living in the country. Yet a recent Gallop poll indicates that less than half of the U.S. adult population actually have a legal will. This means that the majority of adults in the United States made little to no preparation concerning their estate should such an unexpected life event incapacitate them or lead to the early loss of their life. Fortunately, there is no better time to get started on establishing an estate plan and creating a final will and testament than today. For help with wills and other estate planning actions, feel free to call the Florida estate planning attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A at (561) 677-8384.