What Is a Will and Why Do I Need One?
One of the most important legal documents you will have to draft is a will. If you do not have one yet, it could mean that your family and loved ones will not receive the assets you want to leave them once you pass. If you are unsure of what a will is and why you need one, read on for some essential information you will need when looking into a will, and see how Attorney J. Scott Lanford can assist you when it comes to drafting it.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that states your wishes regarding how you want your property and other assets to be distributed. A will can also appoint guardians for any minor children you may have. It’s vital to have a will, as it is the best way to clearly and concisely lay out your final wishes. Without a will, you will have died “intestate,” which means that the state will then decide how to distribute any assets you have to your beneficiaries, according to its laws. When you die intestate, the settlement process may not reflect your dying wishes, and can also be a lengthy legal process consuming both substantial amounts of time and money.
It is also important to ensure that your wishes are carried out; this means having a will set forth in writing, as well as having it signed by yourself and witnesses. Hiring an attorney help you write a will is strongly recommended, as there are many potential issues that could arise (for example, if you are concerned that someone may challenge the will, or if you want to disinherit a partner or child from your will). It’s also important to consult with a lawyer to avoid conflicts when it comes to naming beneficiaries, as named beneficiaries have more authority over a will.
What does a will include?
While there is no one set template for writing a will, a will tends to include:
- Designation of an executor (the person who will carry out all provisions in the will)
- Who the beneficiaries are (the persons who will receive your assets)
- Detailed instructions on the timeline and procedure for how the beneficiaries will receive any assets
- Appointing the guardians for any minors
Beneficiaries and probate
There are certain assets that don’t allow the naming of a beneficiary (for example, real estate and certain bank accounts). In situations like these, you will use the will to clearly state who will receive the items in question, as well as include special instructions. However, some assets do allow a beneficiary to be named (such as investment accounts). In situations like this, the assets can be transferred directly, and have more authority than a will.
Probate is the process of settling one’s estate, even if you do not have a will. However, if you have assets where you can directly name a beneficiary, these assets will generally not have to go through probate. Assets that tend to have to go through probate include retirement accounts without beneficiaries, personal property, cash, and real estate. Assets that are not usually subject to probate include insurance policy proceeds, trusts, and investments with transfer of death instructions.
It is important to note that you should always discuss your situation with your attorney to understand the full ramifications. Feel free to reach out to us for legal counsel or for any assistance in writing a will in Melbourne, FL.
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