If you’re relatively young and in good health, drafting your last will and testament is probably one of the last things you want to think about. You might believe that you can just write your will when you’re older, or avoid writing one altogether because you don’t think you have enough assets to distribute. However, it’s imperative to have a will in place, especially if you have young children.
Here are just a few of the reasons you should draft a last will and testament if you haven’t already.
4 Reasons to Draft Your Will
Your will outlines how you want your assets distributed. If you have specific assets that you want to go to specific members of your family, you’ll need to leave instructions in your will in order to have your last wishes carried out. Even if certain assets are more about the sentimental value than the monetary worth, you should still include them in your will to make sure they go to the right people. You wouldn’t want to leave your kids fighting over that family heirloom quilt or your favorite necklace.
Your will allows you to name a guardian for minor children. As a young parent, you will hopefully be around to see your children grow up, but as hard as it is to think about, you still need to prepare for the possibility that you may not be there. By writing your will now, you can name a guardian and include any specific instructions needed to ensure that your children are raised the way you want.
A detailed will can prevent probate from being dragged out. Just to be completely clear, writing a will doesn’t help you avoid probate, but it can make the process much smoother than it would be if you died intestate (without a will). Without a will and a personal representative that you yourself appointed, your estate may be in probate for several years—preventing your loved ones from inheriting the assets you intended for them to have. This may be an especially harsh blow if your loved ones are unable to cover your medical bills and funeral expenses on their own.
You won’t need a court-appointed administrator when you leave a will. Your will allows you to name a personal representative (referred to as an executor in some states) who will ensure that the instructions in your will are carried out and that your estate is closed after your beneficiaries receive their inheritance. If you don’t leave a will and name a personal representative, the court will appoint one for you. The cost of the court administrator will come out of your estate, potentially taking as much as 10% of your estate’s value.
When to Work with an Attorney to Create a Will
If you have any unusual assets, such as property in another state, or if you want to include any special provisions in your will, you’ll most likely want to work with a Florida estate planning attorney. Consulting an attorney is also a good way to ensure that you meet all the requirements for a valid will under Florida state laws, minimizing the chances that it will be contested.
Although sitting down with an attorney to draft legal paperwork may not sound fun, you’ll appreciate the peace of mind that comes with knowing your wishes will be carried out if something should happen to you.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.