Things to Consider When Writing a Will
When someone creates a Last Will and Testament, they are establishing a plan for loved ones to follow regarding the payment of their debts and the distribution of their assets after their death. When a will is written clearly and comprehensively to set out exactly what you want, the family and friends you leave behind are less likely to question whether they are doing the right things when it comes to administering debts and assets. A carefully drafted will can help to prevent much of the uncertainty and indecision that families might experience after losing a loved one. However, creating an effective will requires extensive forethought and planning. There are many things to consider when writing a will—from how to provide for the payment of debts to who should receive each item remaining in the estate. Loughlin Law, P.A. may be able to help Florida residents with drafting an effective Last Will and Testament and addressing other estate planning needs. Call (561) 677-8384 for more information or to schedule your personalized consultation.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament, often simply called a will, is a legal document that an individual creates to tell others what they would like done with their debts and assets after they pass. A will can also accomplish a few other estate planning goals. A will can name a guardian for minor children or create a trust that can administer assets for years to come. Ultimately, a will is often used as the primary legal document of many estate plans, even if the individual also uses other estate planning tools like insurance, trusts, or retirement plans.
What Are the Main Rules of Writing a Will?
A will must meet a few vital requirements to be valid under Florida law. First, Chapter 732 § 501 of the Florida Statutes requires that the individual creating the will must be at least 18 years old to create a valid will, with exceptions for emancipated minors. Second, the person writing the will must also be of “sound mind.” Generally, that means that the person creating the will is aware of their property and the identity of their natural heirs or descendants. Once these two very basic qualifications are met, an individual can create a will––but to be legally valid, Chapter 732 § 502 of the Florida Statutes requires that the document be signed or otherwise subscribed in the presence of two attesting witnesses, who must also sign the document.
The Basics of Creating a Will in Florida
Creating a Last Will and Testament that is not only legally valid, but financially and communicatively effective, requires some careful planning and thought beyond what is necessary to make the document legally binding. Every will is (and should be) different. Everyone has their own family situation and estate planning goals. A will should be uniquely tailored to account for the individual testator’s needs and goals. Below are some basic things to consider when writing a will. For specific information and suggestions to address your situation, you may want to consider contacting Loughlin Law, P.A.
Keep in mind that all debts and liabilities (including tax liabilities) must be addressed first before any person receives assets or funds from the estate. Decreasing these obligations with careful estate planning can increase the assets available for loved ones. Speak with a Florida estate planning lawyer for more information.
Describe the Property You Want To Include in Your Will
Most testators have specific assets they want to include in their will. They can list those out individually or provide a category of assets, such as “all bank accounts” or “all furniture.” Some wills do not describe the specific assets at all. They simply state how the entire value of an estate should be divided among several individuals.
Many wills also include a clause that deals with “residual property,” which is essentially any other property that a testator owns but that was not specifically named in the will. This “catch-all” provision ensures that all property is addressed in the will, even if it was overlooked in a very specific list of assets.
Set Out Who Will Inherit Your Property
Describe who should receive each piece of property. The information provided here can be very specific or relatively general. The testator can split property however they would like, even if that means that the split will result in a sale of the property with the proceeds divided among several people.
For some, choosing who will inherit their property is an easy decision because they have children and have good relationships with those children and no other dependents to whom they would like to leave assets. In other situations, the choices involved here can be among the most daunting decisions the individual will make. A testator might have concerns about leaving one child too much money because they are irresponsible, or they might have to address a disagreement or rift that causes them to exclude a child or other loved one.
Choose an Executor.
An executor is the person who will administer the estate based on the directions in the will. They will gather assets, get valuations, and distribute assets. They will also pay outstanding bills and address any administration costs as well.
Executors can be friends or family members, but they can also be professionals such as attorneys, financial advisors, or bank representatives. An executor should be trustworthy and available. As a best practice, it is recommended to tell the person ahead of time that they have been named executor so they can voice any concerns before they have to step into their position.
Choose a Guardian for Minor Children
A will can also set out who should care for minor children if the testator passes before their children become adults. The individual named as guardian will often take on all of the rights and responsibilities of helping your children thrive moving forward, so the identity of the guardian is an important decision.
Parents, siblings, family friends, and others can all be guardians. Again, it is a good idea to discuss the responsibilities involved with the potential guardian before naming them in the will so they can voice any concerns ahead of time.
Get Help Creating a Will in Florida
Creating a will that meets the basic requirements for legal validity is a relatively simple process, but the thought that goes into the document can take some time. Many people are not aware of how much they can achieve with a will, so having an experienced guide to help with the process can be invaluable. Loughlin Law, P.A. may be able to step in to provide that guidance and help you work through the things to consider when writing a will. Contact our office by calling (561) 677-8384 to learn more or schedule an appointment.