Wills lawyer needed?

Everyone should definitely have a will. A will is a legal document that specifies who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can consist anything you wish to include, whether it be items of great value, or items that might hold sentimental value, such as photographs. The person named in the will to manage your estate is called the executor because he or she executes wishes you specify in the will.

A will can also specify who you designate to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents. It can specify who gets items that you own; for example, your sister gets the china, or your daughter gets the silver. These people are referred to as “beneficiaries”.

Most insurance policies and retirement accounts generally aren’t covered by wills. Beneficiaries should be designated on these policies and accounts when you open them. You should make sure that they are, and you update them if and when necessary.

You are not required to hire a lawyer to prepare your will. As long as the will meets the legal requirements of the state in which you die, it will be valid. However, an attorney like those at Carpenter & Brown will ensure that everything is complete and accurate in your will. They can also provide very useful advice on estate-planning strategies, possibly recommending a living trust.

Wills attorneys can help you avoid some common mistakes

Following are some common mistakes that could possibly make your Florida will invalid, or, at the very least, cause many headaches upon your demise for your loved ones:

  1. Unqualified Executor – Most states have no residency requirement for executors; however, but in Florida,a Personal Representative (“PR”) must be either a Florida resident or related to the decedent, within the prescribed range, by blood or marriage. Many retirees and snowbirds get caught on this problem when they name their attorney, accountant or best friend from up North to be their PR.  Naming an unqualified PR can result in the attorney for the estate acting as both PR and attorney for the PR and charging a double fee.
  2. Improper homestead devise –In the state of Florida, you cannot leave your homestead to anyone if you have a spouse or minor child. The limited exception is that you can leave your homestead to your spouse, but only if you have no minor child.  Sadly, many will “kits” or “forms” that Floridians use to draft their own wills often fail to recognize this peculiarity.
  3. Wills – Leaving unconditional specific cash bequests – No one knows how much their estate will be worth when they die. So if your will should not specify significant cash gifts in a certain amount.  For example, your estate may be $500,000 when you draft your will, so $100,000 in gifts to secondary beneficiaries still leaves a good amount to the residuary beneficiaries.  However, add in some large medical or nursing home bills before you die, and suddenly your residuary beneficiaries (the persons to whom you intended to leave the most) will receive little or nothing.
  4. Directing the Executor to sell the homestead -There is a critical difference between devising a homestead (see #2) and directing a personal representative to sell the homestead and distribute the proceeds.  You may owe creditors at the time of death and the homestead sale will be necessary to pay off those debts. While there may on occasion be good reason to not vest title directly in the heirs, any drafting which deliberately loses the homestead exemption should be made after full disclosure of the risk.
  5. Leaving the original Last Will exposed to disfavored heirs -Many wills have the same disposition of assets as intestacy laws (as if there was no will), and it is no great loss if those wills disappear. However, wills which favor some children over others, or leave assets to a “significant other” may tempt the “next of kin” if left unsecured at the time of death.  Florida law holds that the absence of the original will creates a presumption of revocation. Even a beneficiary with a copy of the lost will may have real difficulty establishing a lost will.  Better to leave the original will with the person who is being favored and who is motivated to protect, not shred, the will.

Contact Carpenter & Brown in Ft. Lauderdale today to learn more about how they can help you with your will.

Our attorneys can make sure that your will and estate is legal and encompasses all the stipulations necessary in the event of your passing, so that your heirs do not have to be burdened.    Call us today at (954) 771-1850 or visit our website to learn more about how we can assist you.