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Do I Need A Will? What Happens When You Don’t Have One?

Will And Estate Planning Tampa

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For most people, death can be a very uncomfortable subject. However, it is something that all of us deal with at various times throughout our life. When a loved one passes away, there are a great many things to cope with, not the least of which is the grieving process itself. Effective planning can help ease the burden of loved ones when that person passes away.

What Is A Will?

A will is an important tool used to protect your assets and your loved ones in the event of your death.

At first glance, a will is a document that explains your final wishes. In reality, a will is much more than that.

A will can be used to do many things, typically including the following:

  • Distribute a person’s estate as that person sees fit
  • Name a guardian for children and pets
  • Name an executor to ensure the will is administered properly
  • Ensure that a lifetime of hard work and memories lives on in the way a person sees fit

What Makes A Will Valid?

Most states have similar requirements in place for a will to be valid.

A “testator” is the person creating the will.

A “devisee” or “beneficiary” is a person that receives something from the testator in a will.

The “witnesses” are people that verify the testator’s intent by signing the will.

A “codicil” is an amendment to the will that may add or subtract from the original will without having to recreate the entire document.

The basic requirements for a valid will in Florida are:

  • The testator must sign the will at the end of the document;
  • Two witnesses must sign the will in front of each other and the testator after witnessing the testator’s signature or receiving acknowledgement from the testator that s/he previously signed the will; and
  • Any codicil to the will must be made valid with the same procedures as the actual will.

Can I Use Preprinted forms I Found Online To Make A Valid Will?

 

Yes, you can use generic online forms to create a will – but it’s strongly advised that you don’t.

These generic forms are just that: generic. They are usually unable to address the personal, specific needs of the testator and are not always written in a way that complies with the requirements of the state you live in.

If a will does not comply with the law of your state, it will not be considered valid and could be equated to not having a will at all.

What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will?

Much like using a will that does not meet the legal requirements of your state, not having a will can leave your loved ones and your estate unprotected in the event of your death.

If a person dies without a will, the law recognizes them as having passed away “intestate.” States have general rules aboutintestate succession – distribution of an estate without a will – that can be very complicated. A court will decide who gets what part of your estate based on these complicated laws, and that may not conform to your wishes at all.

Creating a will with the guidance of an experienced Family Law and Estate Planning Attorney helps avoid a lengthy, uncomfortable process where control of your assets is governed solely by the state and court officers instead of your personal wishes.

What Should I Do If I Want To Create A Will?

This is only an introduction to the requirements and importance of a will. While many of these requirements and considerations may seem very straightforward, there is a great deal more to think about when creating and executing a will. An attorney experienced in drafting wills can help guide you through this process and explain the many different types of tools that can be used for your estate planning. When you’ve made the wise decision to plan your estate, contact Mindy Budzynski at Summerfield Law Office so that we can make this process quick, easy, and valid to ensure your loved ones and your estate are protected.