If you know about Thanksgiving, chances are you’ve heard of Black Friday, too. Black Friday always takes place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The shopping holiday offers great deals for consumers, and millions of people go out shopping on Black Friday, providing the economy with a huge boost.
Buying assets is great, but how are you protecting them? Estate planning provides a lot of ways you can protect your assets, especially from assets’ worst nightmare: a lawsuit.
Lawsuits in America
America is a litigious society. Millions of lawsuits have been filed over the years, for issues both minor and major. Big money awards usually come from class action lawsuits, and the payouts have come from major companies like General Motors, BP, Volkswagen, WorldCom, and more.
While a lawsuit you face might not be Enron-level (the payout there was $7.2 billion), getting sued can still put a huge dent in your pocket, even if the claims are baseless. If you work in an industry where lawsuits are common, or you just want to protect your assets from the worst-case scenario, consider these legal tools.
Know Your Business Entities
Keeping your personal and business entities separate is important, and, if you don’t take the steps to create a separate business entity, a dispute can cost you everything you own. An LLC or corporation provide protection against liability if you’re sued. If you own a sole proprietorship or partnership, be careful, as they might not offer protection in the event that you’re sued.
There are some professions that generate more liability than others. Professionals like financial advisors, doctors, real estate agents, and lawyers have to get insurance. Malpractice insurance isn’t the only way to protect yourself against lawsuits. You can also look into homeowners, commercial liability, worker’s compensation, and auto insurance. Shop around to get the best prices for your policy.
In Florida, for example, a $25,000 is applied to the first $50,000 of your home’s assessed value. Your home has to be your permanent residence to meet this exemption, and you have to have owned the property as of January 1st of the tax year. States protect some level of home equity across the country. So, even if you declare bankruptcy, state law prohibits the courts from giving your home to creditors.
Get Rid of It
Creditors can only seize assets that you own. No matter how bad the lawsuit or how much money you owe, a creditor cannot come for an asset that is not yours. If you are solvent and an asset transfer won’t render you insolvent, consider simply transferring ownership of your assets to irrevocable trust. You can also give away assets as gits. Tax laws allow for some amount of exclusion, based on how much you give.
If an asset means a lot to you and you don’t want to see it taken away by creditors, giving it away might be your only choice. If it’s financially doable for you, it’s an option.
Of course, you don’t want to wait to do any of this. It’s too late to transfer once the judgement is rendered. You want to take these steps now if you believe you’re at a high risk of lawsuits. Even if one doesn’t happen, preparedness is still the best option.
Even the word “lawsuit” is enough to make some peoples’ skin crawl. Luckily, there are ways you can protect yourself from going broke in the event of a lawsuit. Contact an estate planning attorney to put some of these tools into action.
According to History.com, Thanksgiving started in the 1600s, when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag First Americans shared a harvest feast. That was the first Thanksgiving celebration in the colonies, and, for the next two centuries, Thanksgiving was celebrated by individual states and colonies.
It wasn’t until 1789 that Thanksgiving became an actual government holiday. President George Washington declared that November 26, a Thursday that year, would be the day of Thanksgiving celebrations. Since then, Turkey Day has always fallen on the final Thursday of the month. It is a time to be grateful, eat delicious food, and watch football.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, we are supposed to be appreciative for what we have. In most households, people go around the table saying something that they’re grateful for. While that’s an awesome tradition, you should take your appreciation a little further. In this article, we’ll talk about the best way to pass assets and wealth to your heirs.
401(k)s and IRAs
401(k)s and IRAs are investment accounts that grow, free of taxes, while you’re alive. They continue this tax-free growth after being inherited by your beneficiaries. Some heirs, like spouses and people who have disabilities, are able to hold these accounts during their lifetimes. But note, most heirs have to empty 401(k)s within ten years.
Your house is likely the most valuable, nonfinancial asset that you have. Depending on where you live, heirs may not have to pay a capital gains tax on the house, should they decide to sell it. The heirs will, however, have to keep up with upkeep and taxes, so make sure that whoever you choose is able to do so.
Term Life Insurance
For loved ones who rely on your caregiving and income, term life insurance can be a godsend. You can get a lot of insurance coverage for, comparatively, not much money. Term insurance is a variety of life insurance that covers people for a set term of years. If someone dies within that term, a death benefit is paid. You can make your loved ones your beneficiaries.
Note that if you don’t die during the term, you won’t get the money back. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you’ve purchased home insurance, but that doesn’t mean you want your house to burn down. Term life insurance is an affordable way to safeguard your loved ones who depend on you.
Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance is a simple form of permanent life insurance. It covers your entire lifespan, as long as you pay the premiums. When you die, this life insurance death benefit is paid out to your beneficiary. These policies not only provide a guaranteed benefit upon death for your heirs, there is also a cash-value component that you are able to access for long-term care, emergencies, or other needs. Whole life insurance can be more expensive than term life insurance, and you should avoid borrowing against your policy, as that can backfire pretty badly.
Simply put, an annuity is a contract that you sign with an insurance company. You make a lump sum payment or a series of payments. In return, you get periodic payments that last for life. You can put your beneficiaries onto an annuity, ensuring that they get a steady stream of income. Annuities that have a death benefit can also provide a huge lump sum for your beneficiary, if you die.
Contact an estate planning attorney to set up these documents, as doing them yourself could lead to legal mishaps and unenforceability. Discuss your estate plans with your loved ones sooner than later, especially if you plan to leave a large amount to charity or leave different people different amounts.
Every year, Veteran’s Day is held to commemorate the sacrifices of U.S veterans. Veteran’s Day takes place on November 11th, and we’re able to honor the men and women who defended our country in armed conflicts. This holiday replaced Armistice Day in the 1950s and, ever 1954, it has been a sacred time of remembrance.
Veteran’s Day honors the men and women who have made a difference in our lives with their bravery. How are you making a difference in your own life? Contact WFP and consult an estate planning attorney to get your must-have documents in place. A comprehensive estate plan improves your sense of security and peace of mind.
In this article, we’ll discuss some must-haves for estate planning, including: beneficiary designations, letter of intent, durable power of attorney, wills, trusts, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations.
There are different assets that can pass to your heirs without you having to dictate them in the will (i.e. 401(k) plan assets). For this reason, it’s important to maintain both a beneficiary and contingent beneficiary on these accounts. Insurance plans, for example, should have a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary, in the event that the assets pass outside of the will.
Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a document that you leave to your executor or beneficiary. The letter of intent defines what you want done with your assets after you die or if you are incapacitated. Other letters of intent contain special requests and funeral details. Though letters of intent are not legally binding, they’re informative of your intentions and can have an impact in probate court.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is someone assigned to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so. If you don’t have a durable POA, a court might decide what happens to your assets in the event you’re found incompetent. That decision, in turn, might not comport with your views.
A last will and testament is a finale expression of what you want to happen with your assets when you die. Wills and testaments have to be written according to the legal rules of the state in which you live; otherwise, they will not be legally enforceable and could be challenged in probate court, where they have to be authenticated.
Trusts are a three-party fiduciary relationship. You, the grantor, transfer title of an asset to a trustee. The trustee, a secondary party, holds the title until you want the beneficiary, the third party, to have it. For example, a beneficiary might get title after you die. Often, trusts are vaunted above other estate planning documents because they don’t require you to go through probate court.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Much like a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney makes decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so (if you fall into a coma, for example). The healthcare POA’s decision-making arena involves medical decisions, and they will uphold your wishes for your healthcare, even if you can’t voice them yourself.
If you have small children, it’s important to include guardianship designations in your estate plan. This paperwork will ensure that your kids have a legal guardian if something happens to you and your spouse. Talk with your proposed guardian before filing a designation to make sure that he or she is on board with this major responsibility.
If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry. Estate planning can be complicated, but, if you have an attorney to help you, it will make more sense. You’ll be able to complete your estate plan efficiently and thoroughly with the help of an estate planning attorney.
Halloween is here! What a time to be alive. Last year, Halloween celebrations were pretty much stifled. Though things aren’t back to normal yet (see the CDC guidelines for more information on how to celebrate safely), there’s at least a little breathing room. Halloween is a lot of peoples’ favorite holiday, even more than Christmas. We can’t say we blame them, as there’s a lot to love about spooky season, from the pumpkin spice to the candy to the horror movies.
There are some things scarier than Halloween. Living irresponsibly and not having an estate plan is definitely on our list. In this article, we’ll talk about some major “don’ts” when it comes to estate planning.
Failing to Plan
Of course, the biggest planning mistake you can make is failing to plan in the first place. Estate planning is important because it secures not only your future, but your loved ones’ futures. If you die intestate, the court will focus on paying off creditors and wrapping up the estate. Not everyone you love will get what you want them to get.
It’s a good idea to set expectations now and let people know what you’re planning to do, as part of your will. Let your family know where your assets will go after you pass on. Otherwise, you run the risk of disagreement or contention after you die.
Naming Only One Beneficiary
You should always list more than one beneficiary for your asset. That way, if a beneficiary passes or is otherwise unavailable, the asset won’t revert back into the estate. List a contingent beneficiary for each asset that you’re going to be transferring.
Forgetting Important Documents and Assets
Some documents that you absolutely cannot forget about include powers of attorney and healthcare representatives and final arrangements. You also don’t want to forget about digital assets you may have or charities that you find important. An attorney will help you come up with a comprehensive list of everything you want to include in your estate plan, and they’ll likely have suggestions as well, based on your situation.
We know that this one might seem counterintuitive, as lawyers often tell you that you should be overly-specific to the point of nausea. However, being too specific can sometimes be a negative when it comes to estate planning. You want to make sure that assets you have now will be of use in the future. Naming certain assets (sports tickets, real estate, etc.) with extreme specification opens up the risk that someone might get left out if the asset isn’t there in the future. The solution is to make sure you continuously update your estate plan to reflect any changes to these specifics.
Improper Funding for Trusts
Creating a trust is half the battle. You have to make sure it’s properly funded with a solid, trustworthy source. An unfunded trust is useless. In order to avoid this, work with an attorney to make sure everything is titled properly and that all the assets in the trust are actually in your name. Though this might not seem like a common problem, it actually is.
Taxes and death—the two unavoidables of life. Estate tax liabilities will put a dent in what you leave to beneficiaries. Usually, this liability won’t be an issue unless you have a large estate worth millions. If you do fall into this category, you need to talk to a tax attorney about ways to legally minimize your estate’s tax burden.
You might be thinking to yourself that there are a lot of ways you can go wrong when it comes to estate planning. Luckily, estate planning attorneys can help you avoid these common pitfalls, ensuring that you’re dotting your Is and crossing your Ts.
Halloween is spooky season. It’s a time for all ghosts, ghouls, and goblins to come out and make themselves known. For a lot of people, this time of year is their favorite. And we can see why. The leaves are changing (if you live up North, that is), and Christmas is drawing closer.
Speaking of all things scary and creepy, let’s talk about probate court. Though probate court might not spark the same fear as Stephen King’s It, it’s still no fun at all. Probate court deals with matters of estate administration. In this article, we’ll talk more about probate court’s functions and why you want to avoid it.
What Does Probate Court Do?
Probate court is presided over by a judge, of course, and that judge’s main mission is to ensure that someone’s creditors are paid off and their estate is wrapped up neatly. The basic role of the court is to deal with the debts and property of someone who has died. You can go through probate court even if you die with a last will and testament, as that will has to be authenticated.
Disadvantages of Probate Court
Probate court is a public process. This means that family and friends have a forum to bring claims if they think they’re entitled to your property or that there is a problem with your legal documents after you die. As you can imagine, this increases the chance of conflict after your death. It might even escalate if relatives are battling it out, and your estate could wind up with some heft legal fees. Also, your personal information, down to the age of beneficiaries to how much your jewelry is worth, is out there for the public to see.
Probate court is supervised by a judge and controlled by a huge book of laws. Your executor is restricted and bound by these laws, and they’re not often able to act in a way that maximizes your estate’s value. Executors usually have to get the court’s permission for the majority of transactions they enact on behalf of your estate.
No Advance Planning
Anyone can go to probate, whether they have a will or not. There’s no advanced planning, and you don’t have to do anything before you die. However, that’s a double-edged sword, as the lack of advance planning means that you won’t have the ability to administer your estate in a way that shows your loved ones how much you care. The values expressed will be those of the court, not yours.
Dying intestate (without a will) is the scariest thing of all. Dying intestate has a lot of potential consequence, as that means that the court has total control. Your next of kin might not end up as your chosen heirs, and your loved ones will be bound by the law, not the provisions you make for them.
Probate can consume a lot of your estate. That number might be in the single-digits, but it still leaves less money for your heirs. Taxes, filing fees, and other costs can make a sizable dent in your estate that your family is not likely to appreciate.
Lastly, probate court is time-consuming. Though it’s been reformed time and again, it’s still unpleasant. Your executor will have to complete tons of forms throughout the process, working on your estate tirelessly.
How to Avoid Probate Court
After hearing all these negatives, you are probably wondering how you can avoid probate court. This is where an estate attorney can step in, as they can help you perform legal maneuvers, such as writing a living trust, naming beneficiaries on your bank accounts and retirement, and holding property jointly, that will get you out of probate court. There are ways around it; you just have to seek help first.
As you can see, probate court isn’t something you want to tangle with. Avoiding probate court is something with which an estate planning attorney can help you, as they understand full-well probate court and its disadvantages.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month happens every October, and it’s a time to reflect on taking care of you and your loved ones. One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime, so this is a problem that affects everyone.
Early screenings, regular mammograms, and vigilance can help reduce the chances of breast cancer having severe or even fatal effects. To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what it means for you and your family, visit www.breastcancer.org.
As far as estate planning goes, breast cancer has an impact on how you should think about your estate plan, especially if the ailment runs in your family.
Illness and Estate Planning
When you’re thinking about your estate plan, you should think about major life events and if you’re prepared for them. While some of those events, such as the birth of a new baby or a wedding, are cause for celebration, others, like illness and death, are not. In this article, we’ll discuss some important estate planning tools for illness. These tools will help you protect your assets and dignity in the event of the worst-case scenario.
If you’ve ever been involved the medical field at all, either as a patient, worker, or both, you’ve probably heard the word “HIPAA.” HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act. It was drafted in 1996, and it imparted stringent requirements for the confidentiality of your healthcare information.
A HIPAA release authorizes someone you designate to access your health information. This is essential if that person is going to be interacting with medical providers on your behalf. The authorization for this release will have to be, of course, voluntary and in writing.
A living will is a legal document that acts as a statement of your direct wishes as they pertain to your healthcare. Religious views are a common reason someone would choose a living will. A living will addresses specifications for your care—dos and don’ts—and what you do and do not consent to.
Health Care Proxy
Another healthcare-related document that you often find in estate plans is a proxy. This medical power of attorney designates someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become too incapacitated to do so. Agents have the power to direct your medical care if need be, and they can also be named as your guardian, if a guardian proceeding were to ever occur.
POLST stands for a “Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment.” This document, which your healthcare provider will help you complete, is part of your medical records. It is accessible to your doctors whenever they need it, and it refers to end-of-life medical decisions. This means that it isn’t as broad as a living will or healthcare proxy. A POLST is useful to those who don’t have family to name or want more assurance that their end-of-life wishes will be honored.
Power of Attorney (Financial)
Much like a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney is a person you designate to handle your financial, legal, and tax matters if you’re unable to do so. Every adult should have this basic document, but it becomes even more important for people who are living with an illness.
A key question for those suffering from illness is how much control they should give up at the time versus later on, if things worsen. A financial power of attorney can be adjusted, if you feel that your condition merits less (or more) control to be handed over.
Though this list is not exhaustive, it is a way for you to see that, when it comes to illness, taking care of your loved ones requires vigilance and hard work. Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about ways you can legally prepare in the event of an illness like breast cancer.
According to People Magazine, 33% of Americans say that fall is their favorite season. And, what’s not to love? Changing leaves, toasty fires, and pumpkin spice everything make fall a total treat. Fall also means change. Just like how the leaves go from green to red and orange, life brings with it a lot of changes as well. Some are positive, and some are negative, but all have to be dealt with in one way or another.
In this article, we’ll discuss common major life changes and their impact on your estate plans. Estate planning provides all the tools you need to deal with these changes, but it’s still important to discuss how exactly they can impact your plans.
Common Life Events
Below are some common major life changes that almost everyone runs into. Though some are positive, many are not-so-sunny. While it might be hard to face these events, it’s important to do so, rather than be unprepared if they do happen.
Estate planning isn’t just death planning, so the death we’re talking about here doesn’t have to be yours. If it is, a last will and testament, a trust, and guardianship papers (if you have minor children) are all must-haves to ensure that your assets are divided up the way you want and your kids are cared for.
If someone in your family dies and they were listed in your estate plan, what happens? This is where it gets tricky. There are succession laws that dictate who gets the asset(s) (if anyone), but you’d be better off changing your plan to make the decision yourself. If your intended beneficiary dies, you need to revisit your estate plan, ASAP.
On a happier note, a new baby can mean someone else to add as a beneficiary. If there is a new entrant to your family that you want to ensure is covered, be sure to do that sooner, rather than later. It’s all too easy to forget, but that forgetting can have consequences in the long-run.
As you can imagine, divorce has quite an impact on your estate plan. Your ex-spouse was likely listed as the beneficiary on your insurance, as well as a lot of other estate planning documents. Whether amicable or not-so-nice, you likely don’t want your former spouse coming to collect on your assets when you die. At some point during the divorce process, make sure you remove your ex from the paperwork. Contact an estate planning attorney to ensure you carry out the process thoroughly.
When you’re creating your estate plan, your home like is going to be a huge feature in it, especially if you own it. If you purchase a new home, make sure your estate plan reflects your current address.
Estate planning for businesses is a huge topic, one that could have one-hundred articles all too itself and not be satisfied. When you start a business, you need to include that in your estate planning. A succession plan, tax considerations, and avoiding probate are three topics you should talk to your attorney about.
The Dangers of Waiting too Long
The dangers of waiting too long to make an estate plan change mainly center around one proposition: life is unpredictable. You never know when something drastic will change, and you want to make sure your plan reflects your true wishes.
There are many more changes that can come up in someone’s life, but these are the first major life events that come to mind. Make sure to check your estate plan every three to five years, but you should also make sure that, after an event like the ones listed above, you’re revisiting your plan. Call the attorneys at WFP to schedule an appointment.
For some people, NFL season is a cause for celebration. People love football; they have since the game became a national pastime decades ago. Football season is a regular staple of American life. Watching the game on Sundays is as much of a hobby as anything else is.
Whoever you support or root against is your business, but there’s something we can learn from NFL quarterbacks: how to be covered. Who is your offensive line? What protects you against a tackle?
In this article, we’ll discuss ways to cover yourself against a will challenge. The best offense is a good defense, and executing your will properly will provide you with almost all the protection you need.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
Before we get into will challenges, we should talk about what exactly a will is. A last will and testament is a legally-binding document. It expresses your wishes on how you want your property (savings, home, car, possessions, etc.) distributed after you die. It also delineates who you want to manage the property and execute the will until the final distribution.
The will can also perform other functions as well, such as appoint guardians for your minor children. It is important that a will communicates your wishes clearly, precisely, and accurately. As with any legal document, there are rules attached to how a will must be formed and executed.
What Are the Rules?
Rules vary from state to state. In Florida, there are several requirements for the proper execution of a will. Bulleted below are must-haves for writing a will.
- Writing. Florida courts require that a will be written. There can be no nuncupative wills (oral declarations) or handwritten instructions without witness signatures (holographic wills). These non-written wills are not valid.
- Competence. A will must be made by someone who is competent. The Mad Hatter couldn’t write a will. Someone not of sound mind, or someone who is a non-emancipated minor under age eighteen, could not write a will.
- Terminology. As long as a will is executed according to the law, there aren’t any special phrases, language, or forms required to make the will valid.
- Signatures. This one shouldn’t come as a surprise. A will has to be signed by the testator, but the signature can be any letter, symbol, initials, or mark. As long as the person making the will intends that to be their signature, it counts.
- Witnesses. Witnesses have to sign the will in the presence of the person who made the will. They have to sign the will in the presence of each other. Anyone who is competent can be a witness, even if they’re a beneficiary in the will.
In Florida, a will can be revoked or amended, and it can also be contested. Wills are not allowed to have provisions banning people from contesting the will. These provisions are unenforceable. However, attempts to contest the will’s validity cannot take place before the testator dies.
What is a Will Challenge?
A will contest is an adversary proceeding brought during the probate of someone’s estate. The will contest challenges the will’s validity on some specific ground. There are a few grounds for contesting a will, but, first and foremost, only people with legal standing can contest a will. Anyone who is an “interested person” can file a will contest in Florida. “Interested persons” include creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs to the will.
There are three legal grounds on which someone can contest a will. First, they can claim there are irregularities in the execution of the will. Wills that don’t comply with the rules in the above section can be challenged on these grounds.
Second, a contester can claim the person who made the will was not of sound mind. This means they didn’t understand or have the capacity to understand what they were doing and/or the practical effect of the will when they made it. Lack of capacity must be proven at the time the testator made the will.
Third, someone can argue there was undue influence. The contester can say that they felt someone who substantially benefits from the at-issue will forced the testator to change the will and write it to benefit themselves.
These three legal grounds are the basis for will challenges in Florida. Though not always successful, they are time-consuming, expensive, and cause no small amount of family division.
How to Avoid a Will Challenge?
Unfortunately, there is no failsafe way to prevent people from contesting a will. However, if you follow all the rules to the letter and start early, the chances of those people succeeding are very low. Hiring an estate planning attorney to handle the will execution is a must.
The bottom line is that if you want something done right, hire a professional. Taking the DIY route via Legal Zoom or another website might be tempting, but it won’t pay off in the end. Avoid your will and wishes being questioned, and contact an estate planning attorney today.
Labor Day is here! 2021 is far more than half over, and Labor Day is a chance to rest and kick back after you’ve worked so hard. Labor Day began in the nineteenth century, and it is dedicated to the contributions and achievements of workers in America. Traditionally, it is observed every first Monday in September. It wasn’t until 1984 that the federal government officially made it a holiday.
Now, every year, almost all of us have that first Monday in September off work. While you’re firing up the grill or planning a day trip, consider thinking about how you’re protecting everything you’ve worked for. Estate planning can help you keep your hard-earned assets, business, and more from falling into the wrong hands.
Estate Planning Tools
There are a wide range of estate planning tools designed to help you protect your assets after you die. Whether you’re trying to safeguard your business or your home, listed below are some documents to help you do so.
For Your Business
There are estate plans for businesses that handle what happens to your company after you die. These succession plans deal with things like transfer of power or liquidation, as well as insurance and tax issues.
For Your Assets
Wills and trusts are two of the most common estate planning tools for assets. Your last will and testament is a final expression of where you want your assets to go after you die (to certain family members, charity, creditors, etc.). A trust is a little bit different, as it can take place while you’re still alive. With a trust, you transfer title to your property for the benefit of a third party. You transfer to the title to a trustee, who grants it to the beneficiary upon your instruction. Trusts are often preferred to wills because they help people avoid probate court.
For Your Kids
Many people might not know this, but estate planning can help your kids, too. Part of estate planning involves guardianship. Choosing guardians for your kids in the event that something happens to you and/or your spouse is essential to their well-being.
Threats to Your Estate
So, what happens if you don’t have an estate plan, or if your estate plan is poorly executed? Probate court and will challenges are two common threats to your estate and asset division.
Probate court doesn’t always mean that something has gone wrong with your estate plan. Wills need to be authenticated in probate court for them to go into effect, and, if they’ve been properly executed, there shouldn’t be any issue. Where there is a problem is with intestacy.
Dying intestate means that you have no estate plan. In that case, a probate court judge will divide up your assets after you die. The aim of the division will be, first and foremost, to pay off your creditors. This means that ideas and plans you might have had for your assets won’t be carried out, and your estate will be divvied up by the court. It is a hectic, time-consuming, and burdensome process for your family.
Even if you have a will, there’s a chance it might not be executed properly. If you have a good attorney, that chance shrinks to next-to-nothing. However, in today’s era of Legal Zoom, things tend to go wrong. A will is filled with little technicalities, and, if you miss them, you run the risk of a relative challenging your will. Will challenges aren’t uncommon, and they can put a huge wrench in your estate plan.
When it comes to what you’ve worked for, no measure is too great for you to keep it safe. A comprehensive estate plan can keep your assets and business from falling into the wrong hands. If you have a specific idea for what you want to have happen to your possessions after you die, contact our attorneys at WFP to discuss setting up an estate plan.
The Delta variant is upon us. This evolved form of Covid-19 is nearly twice as transmissible as the original virus, and it has several genetic features that make it more severe and resistant to treatment. The Delta variant has the potential to wreak havoc for months. This article won’t be a plea for you to get the vaccine, as, chances are, you have already made up your mind about whether you will or won’t get the Covid-19 shot.
This “variant of concern,” as the CDC calls it, comprises 83% of new cases in the U.S. With this deadlier version of the virus looming, it’s time to think about the harsh reality of the situation. You should ask yourself whether your last will and testament is up to date—assuming you have one. If you’re new to the estate planning game, then read this article, as it will serve as a guide for why you should create a will (or update your current one, if you have it).
What is a Last Will and Testament?
We all have “assets.” Our money, house, the possessions in our house, car, and more constitute assets for the purpose of a last will and testament. A last will and testament is, effectively, a legal document that tells everyone what you want to do with your stuff after you die. You can outline what you want to do with your assets, who you want to give your assets to, and what you want to happen your dependents, financial investments, and bank accounts after you pass on.
There are a few requirements for a valid last will and testament in Florida. First, your will has to be written. Second, your will has to be witnessed and notarized according to the law. Third, it is necessary to follow Florida law’s formalities to the letter when executing a will. Lastly, to go into effect, your will has to be proven valid and permitted by Probate Court (usually not a problem, as long as the law was followed correctly).
Pros and Cons of a Last Will and Testament
As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to making a last will and testament.
The “pros” of a last will and testament include:
- You avoid the Florida laws of intestacy.
- You have a legal document that reflects your wishes for your assets.
- You may be able to minimize federal and state estate taxes, should your estate be subject to them.
- You can keep assets within your family.
- You might be able to protect against creditors.
- You can name your guardians for your kids in your will
There are some “cons” to a last will and testament. These are:
- You cannot plan for incapacity.
- The will must be filed in Probate Court.
- The will does not take effect until you die.
- Your affairs might become part of public record, if your inventory is filed with the Probate Court.
- There are sometimes will contests and claims against the estate based on the will’s language.
Do I Need a Last Will and Testament?
After reading the pros and cons, you might be wondering if you need a last will and testament. There is a lot to think about, and there are alternatives to a will, including a trust and other legal instruments.
You likely do need a will. Without one, you’ll die intestate, which means that a court will take charge of distributing your assets. They’ll pay off creditors, and it’s possible your kids won’t get anything, if there aren’t any assets left over after your debt is paid. However, you shouldn’t feel as though a will is your only option. There are plenty of ways to ensure your affairs are properly arranged after death, and these alternatives, especially trusts, have become increasingly popular over time.
If you want to update your will, create a will, or find alternatives to a will, the next step you should take is contacting the attorneys at WFP. It’s not advisable to create your own will, as there are a lot of minor legal technicalities that you could miss, if you’re not trained. Getting it done professionally could save you and your family a lot of hassle down the road. Visit our website to learn more.