Your last will and testament is a legal document that outlines your final wishes and instructs your family on how you’d like your possessions and assets distributed after your death. Having a will helps your family understand your intentions for the items you left behind and ensures your estate is managed how you desire. Here are the subjects you’ll want to cover in your will.
Choose a Personal Representative
Personal representatives play a vital role during probate. The personal representative’s primary responsibility is to manage and execute your will. They’re also the primary contact between your family members, the probate lawyer, and the probate court. Personal representatives attend court meetings, present questions from family members to the probate court, and notify beneficiaries and creditors about the probate proceedings. It’s important to choose a close, trusted friend or family member who is able and willing to take on the responsibility and gets along with most of your family members to fulfill this role. You’ll also want to discuss your intentions with them beforehand to ensure they’re willing to perform the duties.
Elect a Guardian
Your will is the best place to name a guardian for your minor children. If you fail to designate a guardian for your children in your will, your children will automatically go to their surviving biological parent. If the other parent also dies, guardianship will be granted to any living grandparents if they are physically able to care for your children. If there are no grandparents, guardianship will go to the next closest relative or someone who petitions for their custody.
When drafting your will, write down your intended beneficiaries, including children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, and nephews. This list ensures you don’t accidentally leave out someone from your will. Once you’ve written a list of all your intended beneficiaries, you can start deciding what possessions you’d like them to receive.
Donate to Charity or Give Financial Gifts
You can designate money from available banking accounts for specific purposes in your will. You can set aside funds such as funeral expenses and probate court costs. You may also list who should inherit bank accounts and specify cash amounts to family members, friends, or charitable organizations. You’ll also want to include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that are not a part of an IRA or 401k in your will. You can set aside funds for your grandchildren’s college fund, give your adult children an inheritance, or donate money to a charity.
Write a Letter of Instruction
This letter is an informal document that should be included before your will. You can use this letter to share important details that your family will need to handle your estate. For example, you’ll want to provide the contact information of tax professionals, bankers, and attorneys. You should also include how to access online accounts. If you have any specific desires for your funeral and burial arrangements, you can state them in this letter. You can also include one final message to your family and loved ones.
Make Sure It’s Legal
Wills in Florida are only valid if they follow the requirements listed in Chapter 732.502 of the Florida Statutes. These requirements include:
- Being over 18 and of sound mind.
- Creating the will of your own free will without force or coercion.
- Having it in writing.
- Signing the will with your own hand or mark.
- Having two witnesses (preferably not people who are also beneficiaries) sign it.
Create Your Will with Every & Stack
While using a lawyer to create your will isn’t a legal requirement, having a probate attorney like our estate planning team at Every & Stack draft your will ensures your last wishes will be carried out as you desire. We will help you create an estate plan that allows your family to easily manage your estate and final wishes. Call our office at 386-255-1925 to schedule an appointment.