ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE? - Part 1
Depending on what survey you review, between one half and two thirds of all American adults did not have a Will. So, I pose the question opposing: Do you really need one?
The answer is absolutely YES, if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:
Do you care who gets your property if you die?
Do you care who gets your money if you die?
Do you care who is appointed as guardian of your minor children if you die?
Do you own a business either as a self-proprietor or in a corporate capacity?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, the Will is a must. Without a Will, the Court will make the decision on your behalf, among others, through the lengthy and often stressful process called probate as to who gets what. Most people don’t like to think about death, but if you die suddenly, without a Will, you will inadvertently subject your family and your loved ones to unnecessary confusion and anxiety at what Will already be a very difficult time for them.
Ok. Let’s get to the basis. What does a Will do?
A Will is a legal document wherein a person declares what he or she wants done with their property at the time of their death. A Will has no effect until the person who wrote it, known as the testator, dies. The testator can revoke a Will at any time prior to their death and can amend it along the way.
Simply, if you die without a Will, the State will distribute your property to your heirs according to the State’s intestacy statutes. The statutes might call for a distribution that is similar to what you want. But, again, maybe they don’t. State intestacy laws will provide how the total sum of your property to be divided among your heirs. It can’t provide for who will get certain specific items of your property however. This can lead to many problems. Your heirs may not agree on who will get certain items. For instance, if you have inherited something from say your grandfather, like a watch or a knife and intended to pass along to your son, if you die without a Will saying that this is what you want to do, someone else in the family, a daughter or another son may feel very strongly that they should have it. So, even if you don’t have many assets, you may be concerned about making sure that certain items of your property go to people that you wanted to. You can do this with a Will.
Many people are under the misconception that having a Will triggers one having to deal with the probate process. In Florida, there is a summary process which makes the distribution of your assets via your Will, smooth, streamlined and relevantly simple. If you die without a Will, the probate Court will still oversee the distribution of the assets to your heirs. The likelihood is, that it is probably more expensive for your heirs if you don’t have a Will than if you do. For instance, whoever administers your estate will probably have to post a surety bond if you don’t have a Will. If you do have a Will, not only can you choose the person who administers your estate, but you can also provide that he or she will not have to post a surety bond. This can result in great savings.
Ok. Ok. I know what you are thinking. “ I don’t have enough money to have a Will. I have a small estate.” Even if your estate is small, there are very good reasons to have a Will. The fact of the matter is, if you are married, you need a Will. If you have kinds, you need a Will. If you are single, don’t have kids, but you have a positive net worth, then you should have a Will.
Ok. You are broke, young, single, don’t have kids and you live in a home with your parents. I can see you probably don’t need a Will yet. It is important to understand that a Will directs a distribution of assets, and if you don’t have many assets to distribute, then you may be ok without a Will. One of my clients is single, doesn’t have any kids, is 28 years old and has a tremendous amount of student loan debt. He really doesn’t need a Will yet, because he does not have any dependents and doesn’t have any assets. He has a leased apartment and one of his parents is on his car note.