As an older adult, have you created a Florida last will and testament? Are you aware that your estate is everything you own? Unfortunately, research continues to tell us that only around 45% of all Americans have taken the step to protect themselves, their families, and their legacies with a last will and testament. You need to know that if you die without a will (intestate) or without an estate plan there may be consequences for your family. Your family may face difficulties after you pass away in sorting out your assets, taking care of any debts you may have and knowing who you want to be in charge.

What should you consider assets? The assets in your estate include your home and any other real property you own, your vehicles, bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, cash value life insurance, and personal property. These may all be assets that can and will be inherited by someone else upon your passing. Whether your estate is big or small it does not matter, everyone has an estate and everyone needs to have an estate plan.

However, you may still ask, what happens if you die without a will? If you die without a will, the state of Florida will step in with a plan to follow under its intestacy laws. We would like to share and review three questions with you. These questions will clarify for you exactly why you need a Florida will and estate plan in order to ensure your estate and the legacy you have created is passed on to your beneficiaries.

1. Who would you choose now to make all the decisions that need to be made when you pass away? Think of your will as a set of instructions for the personal representative you name to carry out your wishes. Again, if you die intestate, without a will, the probate court in your county will choose someone to be your personal representative. The probate court will probably appoint the closest relative found who is willing to take on the task of personal representative of your estate. However, this may not be the person you would have chosen, and he or she may not proceed with the care and deference you would have wanted for your wishes.

2. If you die without a will, who decides how your assets will be divided? The state of Florida. Without a will, the state of Florida will distribute your assets according to the intestacy laws of Florida. Sadly, this distribution may or may not be how you would have wished your assets to be distributed. The Intestacy laws of the state of Florida usually list the order of the beneficiaries who will inherit from your estate. Usually the ones to inherit first are your closest relatives, but it may depend on which family members survive you. In fact, the list may go down to your next closest relatives and even beyond. Another very important fact, if you pass away without any surviving family members, your property may pass to the state of Florida.

3. Have you given thought to your children or even to how you want to be buried? Provisions for your children and your burial may all be included in your last will and testament. Your will may provide for your children and their care. You may also put in your will that you want to be buried in a specific manner. A last will and testament is the legal way you can make sure things go as you wish after you pass away.

We know you may have questions about this, and many other, issues. At the Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services. By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.