One of the kindest acts you can perform while alive is to plan for loved ones after you're gone. Creating a will or estate plan is a thoughtful way of letting people know that you care for them. There are many reasons for having a will or estate plan. Here are two of the most important reasons.
Providing stability for your minor children
An estate plan will help you provide for the future of your children. In the unfortunate event that you aren't there to raise your minor children, you'll want someone that you have faith in to care for them.
In Florida, any family member can petition the court for guardianship over your minor child. While you have a detailed knowledge and history about the people around you, the court will not. The best way to assure the right person is there for your child is to put it in writing.
If the decision is left to a court, the court will look at factors such as family relationship, job stability, criminal records and home environment before making a decision. However, a judge is unlikely to consider other factors you value, such as:
- Parenting style
- Personal values
- Religious affiliation
Another problem that would arise in your absence would be managing any assets left to your child. Florida gives a legal guardian authority over the child, but not necessarily any assets totaling more than $15,000. Without someone designated by you, the court will likely appoint a stranger to manage your child's financial future.
When running through the possibilities of what may happen if you do not have a will or estate plan in place, one fundamental thing runs throughout each scenario - lost control. After living your life, caring for friends and family, building close bonds and financial resources, your legacy could ultimately be decided by strangers.
Dividing your estate and assets
A will or estate plan also gives you control over how your assets will be disbursed and can help avoid hard feelings that sometimes arise between family members after a death.
In Florida, failing to create a will or estate plan means that your assets will be divided according to the Florida intestacy statute through a probate court. Legal fees and court costs will be deducted, reducing the amount left for those you love. Additionally, the intestacy process may not yield the results you would have wanted.
Under Florida law:
- Your spouse may get the entire estate
- Your spouse may receive only half, with the remainder divided among others
- Your estate could be equally distributed among relatives
- If you have no direct heirs, your estate could go to the state of Florida
Setting up a will or estate allows you to distribute your hard-earned assets resources as you see fit, not a court.
If you live in Florida and do not have a will or estate plan, it's important that you work with an experienced attorney from the Law Offices of George Castrataro to make certain your wishes are followed.