Did you know when you die without a valid last will and testament the courts consider you to have died intestate? By contrast, a person who dies with a valid will is said to have died “testate” in Florida. This is an important distinction because if a person dies intestate, then Florida Statutes will dictate how your assets are distributed at death. It is important to remember that, unfortunately, statutes do not consider your relationships. This means that the estate assets could be distributed according to an inflexible set of standards, instead of your actual wishes. 

The simplest way to prevent this from happening is to draft a last will and testament.  A will is a document that directs the disposition of the person’s property on or after his or her death. When you work with your experienced estate planning attorney, you can make sure to tailor your estate plan to your wishes ensuring that your loved ones are looked after.  Your last will and testament must be in writing and, in Florida, you have to sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses must then sign the will in your presence and in the presence of each other. Upon your death, the probate court can then administer your estate your last will and testament according to the terms of the will.

Believe it or not, dying without a valid may increase the cost of the estate administration. One of the reasons for the extra expense is that your heirs must be noticed.  The notice allows your heirs the opportunity to claim a share of your estate and the court must then rule on these claims. Intestate estate administration can waste a lot of time because each claimant is entitled to a hearing on his or her claim each. In addition, your personal representative cannot administer your estate without court hearings authorizing the administration and distribution of your estate assets. 

Most of these issues that can arise are not necessary if you died with a last will and testament directing how your estate should be administered. Unnecessary lawsuits may also be prevented by a valid will because the document controls administration of your assets and nothing is left to chance. Remember, your estate plan, in many ways, is designed to take care of your loved ones.  Do not force the courts to make your decisions for you. It is never too soon to plan for those you care about.  We would love to answer your questions about your estate plan and help with any changes that might be needed in the New Year. Do not wait to contact us to schedule a meeting with attorney Brian Perlin.