Last Will and Testament
A Will is a legal document in which you set forth in writing your specific intentions as to: Who will inherit your assets; and 2) Who will be in charge of disbursing those assets. Within your Will you will be able to name the individual you choose to be the administrator, or Personal Representative, of your estate’s administration. You can also name a back-up person if the first person you select is unable to serve; but, we must abide by Florida’s rules on who can serve in these positions.
After determining who you want to inherit your assets (these persons are called beneficiaries), you should also consider the manner in which your beneficiaries will inherit those assets. For example, if you want your beneficiary to reach a certain age before he/she receives the inheritance without any strings attached, then you can include a trust within your Will saying so. Or, if your beneficiary is a person with disabilities, then you should have a special needs trust to hold and control these assets. So, you can have trusts within your Will specifically designed to meet your personal objectives.
In addition to determining how your beneficiary will inherit his/her assets, you may also appoint a guardian to be responsible for your children if they are minors when your Will is probated. A successor can also be named in case your initial guardian cannot serve.
Some people believe that a Will has its disadvantages. For instance, the Will only takes effect after you die and serves no purpose if you become incapacitated while alive. And, did you also know that your Will only controls the assets that are titled in your name alone? Your Will does not have any control over assets that are titled in joint ownership; and it does not control those assets that have beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies, annuities, or IRAs.
Most people know that dying without a Will guarantees probate. What is surprising to many, however, is that dying with only a Will does not avoid the probate process. If someone dies owning property in his or her name alone, there must be a court process, or probate, to “prove” the will, satisfy creditors’ claims and determine beneficiaries. Probate can take as little as 4 months to several years to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate or disputes that may arise.
There are ways to avoid probate. One of the common ways is to create a Revocable Living Trust.