A properly executed will puts you in control to decide who gets your estate instead of the law making the choice for you. You also may name the personal representative (executor) of your will as you choose, provided the one named can qualify under Florida law. A personal representative is one who manages an estate, and may be either an individual or a bank or trust company, subject to certain limitations.
Another option is to create a trust in a will, whereby the estate or a portion of the estate will be kept intact with income distributed or accumulated for the benefit of members of the family or others. Minors can be cared for without the expense of proceedings for guardianship of property, and a guardian may be named for minor children.
A will can determine how your estate assets are distributed after your passing, such as making gifts, to charities that not only benefit from your generosity, but can also benefit from lower estate taxes before and after your death. For example, the Pinellas Community Foundation supports many charity organizations and can help direct your gifts to your desired charities as well as provide advice on tax implications. You decide who bears any tax burden, rather than the law making that decision.
If you die without a will (this is called dying “intestate”), your property will be distributed to your heirs according to a formula fixed by law. Your property does not go to the State of Florida unless there are absolutely no heirs at law, which is very unlikely. In other words, if you fail to make a will, the inheritance statute determines who gets your estate. The inheritance statute contains a rigid formula and makes no exception for those in unusual need.
When there is no will, the court appoints a personal representative, known or unknown to you, to manage your estate. The cost of probating may be greater than if you had planned your estate with a will, and the administration of your estate may be subject to greater court supervision. Don’t have a will? It’s another loss to those you left behind.
Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.
For help or answers to will and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.