A will is a legal document that an individual prepares to distribute his or her assets upon their death. In order for a will to be valid it must meet the requirements of the state where it was made. In Florida, any person who is of sound mind that is 18 or an emancipated minor can make a will. The will must be in writing and signed by the person making the will. The person making the will is called the testator. The testator must sign at the end of the will in the presence of two witnesses. The two witnesses must sign in the testator's presence and in the presence of each other. It is a good idea for the will to be a self-proved will which is when the will is acknowledged by the testator with affidavits of the witnesses under oath before a notary public. The witnesses attest to the formalities of the signing of the will. This can save a lot of time and headaches in the future.
A will helps to direct the distribution of your estate upon death. You will want to appoint a Personal Representative that you believe is up to the task of concluding and distributing your estate. I also recommend that you appoint a contingent Personal Representative in the event that your first choice predeceases you or refuses to act. You should also think about and specifically designate whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
Distribution of personal property should also be considered. If there are specific items that you want to go to a particular heir, then you should make a detailed list describing the items and designating to which heir they should be distributed. If you do not, then the Personal Representative may simply sell everything and divide the proceeds or many items may be donated or thrown away.
If you have minor children, then you will need to make some additional very important decisions. Who will care for your children in the event of your death? You should appoint a guardian and as with a personal representative, I recommend that you appoint a contingent guardian. The guardian will be the person providing all of the day-to-day care for your children, ensuring their ongoing medical and dental care, ensuring they continue their education and generally becoming their substitute parent.
If you have assets and minor children, then you will also want to consider a trust for the protection and distribution of your assets for the benefit of your children. At a minimum, you may set up a trust as a part of your will that would be established upon your death or a separate trust established and funded now. You will need to select a trustee and a contingent trustee. The trustee can be someone you trust to administer the trust or you may select a professional trustee.
As you can see, a will is just the beginning and we are here to help you design an estate plan that best fits your desires and the needs of your family. Please contact us to today to discuss your estate planning goals and needs.
Daniel M. Genet, P.A.
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