Last Wills and Testaments
Last wills and testaments are an important estate planning tool. They are usually the centerpiece of a family estate plan. Do you have some assets and people and/or organizations in your life you want to receive those assets? You should have a will. We draft wills tailored to our client’s specific needs.
Your Last Will & Testament is the platform for important life decisions to be carried out when you’re gone. For example, through your will, you can determine who gets what you own, in what percentages, who will manage your estate as personal representative (or “executor”). Or even who will raise your minor children and who will manage their money.
The will is a document that gets filed in court for a Probate [LINK] legal action after you die. The judge reviews the will and makes sure that all of your wishes (that are legally proper) are carried out. In the probate process, other things are done. This includes paying potential creditors and appointing your personal representative of the estate.
If you die without a will, that is a risky situation. A probate case may still be opened to distribute your assets according to the “intestate succession” plan set forth under Florida law.
Florida Statute – 732
The question for you is whether you’re comfortable having the Florida Legislature decide what happens to your assets and loved ones following your death without a will. If you want to maintain control of what happens, the best way to achieve this objective is by making out a will.
Wills can range from very simple to complex. It depends on the circumstances of our clients’ lives. We recognize that there are many “off-the-shelf” products and online services offering wills and other legal documents. These forms are generally very inexpensive. And they can be produced in assembly-line fashion in a few minutes through an online platform. If you are very price-sensitive and all you want is legal forms, such services may be a better fit than our firm.
Why You Need A Legal Advisor
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a long-term trusted advisor to answer questions and guide you through these important life decisions. We can help you with both your immediate estate planning needs, answer legal questions, provide advice and help you in other ways, call us. We will be there for you after the work is done and we collect our fee.
CPC Law welcomes client calls for ongoing advice so your attorney can be an effective trusted advisor for the long-term. Circumstances change in life, including but not limited to events such as, birth, adoption death, marriage, divorce, incapacity, injury and many others. It’s been said that change is the only constant in life. As your life progresses and things change, we’ll be ready to talk with you about how to make sure your estate plan keeps up with the changes.
What Does A Last Will & Testament Require?
In all states, including Florida, to be valid, wills have legal “technical” requirements. They also have “capacity” requirements. This means the person making the will (known as the “testator” or “testatrix”) must be mentally competent to know what they’re doing. Capacity generally refers to their ability to understand what they have (assets) and who are the people in their lives, usually family members.
The technical legal requirements include witnesses, a notary and an affidavit as part of the will. Some of these requirements are very strict.
For example, witnesses to the signing of the will must actually see the testator/testatrix sign the will. For example, a Florida court ruled that a will signed on a hospital deathbed where a curtain was drawn around the bed. And the witnesses were on the other side of the curtain was improper because the witnesses didn’t literally see the will being signed through the curtain.
Surviving Spouse and Children
Other types of legal requirements involve minimum shares of your estate that your surviving spouse and minor children must receive. A surviving spouse is entitled to a minimum portion of your estate. Your primary residence, or homestead, is a hot-button issue under Florida law. Even if a spouse and children aren’t on the deed as legal title-holders, they have certain rights that can’t be violated through a will.
There are also assets that don’t get distributed through the will (and probate court) at all. These include life insurance death benefits, retirement accounts to named beneficiaries, pay-on-death bank accounts and jointly-owned property with survivor rights, among others. We make our clients aware of what assets pass through the will and which pass “outside of probate” as another way of helping them make sound planning decisions.
Though many store-bought or online will forms can be legally proper and suitable for some. However, there have been many legal nightmares created by circumstances that don’t fit the “cookie-cutter” format not being addressed. The failure of consumers to get sound legal advice from an attorney can lead to expensive legal challenges. It comes with costs far exceeding the savings from “doing it yourself. “
Elderly Family Members
Elderly family members will often bring complications. Especially regarding the issue of the mental capacity to make a will. Unfortunately, this is due to dementia, Alzheimers Disease, disabilities and other common issues seniors face. There may be serious questions surrounding a client’s competence to make a legally-enforceable will. Related to these problems is the issue of whether someone may be unduly influenced, tricked or coerced into making a will. Especially for someone else’s benefit. Seniors are well-known to be especially vulnerable to pressure and influence.
By carefully assessing and addressing these sensitive issues during the consultation and planning stage, our firm can give your family the peace of mind. You should know the will is done right and these capacity questions are properly addressed. One the many examples of the precautions we take is to talk privately with a potential client. They are often an elder, who is brought in by another family member or friend for a consult. By having this private talk, the attorney can better assess the possibility of competence and influence issues that may exist.
In summary, a Last Will and Testament is a cost-effective and versatile estate-planning tool. It can help individuals in all stages of life and financial means plan for what happens after death. For a free consultation with your attorney and trusted advisor, call CPC Law.