Writing your will may seem like a somber task and something that you don’t want to do, but failure to write a will can (and will) ultimately turn around and bite you – or more specifically, those you love – after your passing. There is no use writing your will unless you do it correctly, though, because without being done properly, your will will be considered invalid. So, how do you write your will correctly?
Writing Your Will: Everything You Need to Know For Estate Planning
The first and most important step in writing your will is to retain a reputable estate planning attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you plan out your last will and testament in terms of the format of your will, the important aspects to include in your will, and how to ensure that your will conforms to state standards.
The standards for a valid last will and testament differ by state, but since Weidner Law is located in Florida, we will be focusing on the state of Florida.
The second thing you need to know is what the laws of your state are in regard to drawing up and filing a will. In Florida these laws include:
- A last will and testament must be typed up – it may not be written.
- It must be signed by the person whose will it is.
- The will must be signed before two official witnesses.
- Each witness of the will signing must also sign the will in front of each other and the writer of the will.
It is very important that your will follow the riles of the state because after you pass away, your remaining family must prove the will in probate court. This means that they must show that your will is valid. If the court finds that your will is not valid according to state law, the document will be considered invalid.
In Florida, a will can also be considered self-proving which means that the will can be acknowledged by the writer and both witnesses in the presence of a notary.
If your will is valid, the probate proceedings will go ahead.
Florida has no restrictions in regards to what a person may address in their will.
Some people do use simple online templates to complete their will without the assistance of an attorney. These people choose this method of writing a will because it is more affordable, but only in the short term. Writing your will without the assistance of an attorney can wind up costing you much more in the scheme of things. This is because a will that is declared as being invalid is a will that is going to be written off by the court and from here, your estate will be distributed amongst your heirs according to state law. In most states this property disposition follows a familial hierarchy. In Florida this pattern of inheritance is as follows:
- If you die with children but no spouse, your children inherit everything.
- If you die with a spouse but no descendants, your spouse inherits everything.
- If you die with a spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants, your spouse inherits everything.
- If you die with a spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship, your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property and your descendants inherit 1/2 of your intestate property.
- If you die with a spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse, your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property, and your descendants inherit 1/2 of your intestate property.
- If you die with parents but no spouse or descendants, your parents inherit everything.
- If you die with siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings inherit everything.
This pattern of inheritance can be avoided if you complete your will according to state requirements and the best way to do this is under the direct supervision of an attorney.
What Else Should You Know About Estate Planning?
There is more to estate planning than just completing a will and your attorney can help you to plan these other aspects too. These elements include:
- Creating an itemized list of inventory – that is, everything that compiles your estate.
- Create an itemized list of estate assets that are intangible, for example, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, IRAs, and bank accounts. As you list each asset, be sure to incorporate any paperwork with identifying information like account numbers and passwords.
- Write a list of your current debts – anyone whom you owe money to.
- Create another list of any groups that you have a membership with – AARP, etc.
- Ensure that you make copies of these lists and keep everything in a secure location.
- Look over your retirement and insurance accounts and ensure your beneficiaries are up to date.
- Set up transfer upon death designations for various accounts.
- Choose an estate executor making sure that the person you choose is responsible and up to the job.
- Review all of your estate documents with your estate planning attorney.
- Talk with your estate planning attorney about any other accounts that you can setup to provide for your loved ones, for example, trusts.
- After completing your will, make a copy of it and give the copy to your estate executor.
- Be sure to look over all of your estate documents at least once a year to ensure that everything is still as you desire.
Looking For Help Writing Your Will in St. Petersburg?
If you live in or around St. Petersburg and are looking for a reputable estate planning attorney to help you write your will and plan your estate, Weidner Law can help! Just call us today at 727-954-8752