For those who have just begun considering an estate plan, you may want to start by drafting a will.
A will is a document that establishes how you would like your assets to be distributed after you pass away. It also provides you with the opportunity to name an individual as a personal representative or executor to carry out desired distributions and ensure that any outstanding financial liabilities are resolved.
To be valid, a will needs to be properly executed with the proper signing formalities for admission to probate court. In court, the judge will determine whether the will is legal and enforceable before any distributions are facilitated.
Here are a few important considerations to make as you begin to plan your will.
1. You should consider who you’d like your beneficiaries to be.
A beneficiary is anyone you name in your estate plan to benefit, in some way, from your estate. You may decide to explicitly name these individuals to benefit from a specific part of your estate plan like life insurance policies, retirement plans, investment accounts, or savings accounts.
Deciding who to name as a beneficiary is an extremely personal and important decision to make. During probate, a short-term account will be established for your estate. This temporary account will act as an operating account to receive any income and pay out any expenses on behalf of the estate. Additionally, it will make distributions to beneficiaries of the remaining account balance once all administrative expenses have been paid.
2. Dying without a will triggers intestacy laws.
Passing away without a will or estate plan is legally considered “dying intestate.” Any assets owned by yourself and without a beneficiary designation would be distributed and managed according to your state’s intestacy laws through a probate proceeding.
In Florida, for example, a surviving spouse may or may not be entitled to the entire intestate estate if there are surviving children of the decedent. This means that your spouse may only receive a fraction of your estate, which may not be what you hope to occur.
To avoid having important decisions like these made without your input, it is vital to create a will that honors the decisions you would like to be made after you pass away or lack the capacity to manage your affairs.
3. A will minimizes the stress your family faces after you pass away.
Without a will in place, your family members would be faced with making important decisions regarding your assets and interests without your input. This is especially impactful if you have children from prior marriages, charities you wished to benefit, or who you wanted to be your personal representative of your estate.
To avoid this, meet with estate attorneys every few years to update your will, so that it reflects significant life changes and financial responsibilities.
Estate planning varies from person to person. Regardless, including a will is a foundational component of a solid estate plan.
Our attorneys at Mendez and Mendez Law are eager to meet with you and help you draft a will that protects you and your family’s assets.