Why Do I Need a Will?

A will is a way of making sure your assets get distributed how you want them to be after your death. Nobody likes to think that time will come, but it will, hopefully later rather than sooner.

But even if you are young, and think you have no assets, it is a way of making sure that who you want to get something, gets it, including a personal belonging. This will avoid family squabbles and feuding. All too often I hear, “but Mother wanted me to have this.” Without a will, this is a recipe for disaster if different people disagree.

What do I have to do to Make a Will?

  1. Decide who you want to get what.
  2. Select someone to be your “Personal Representative” (someone who agrees to make sure that your wishes are carried out and all bills are paid.)
  3. Set up an appointment with us to give us all the details, at which time we will set up another appointment for you to review the will, and “execute” the document. We will need two witnesses, and it has to be notarized.

Do I have to Register the Will?

You don’t have to but you can. This has been in a state of flux over the years, but now you can. This is particularly useful if you have reason to believe that your will may not be found upon your death. It usually involves filling out a form, with a small fee. The other approach, however, is to let your loved ones, and personal representative, know where to find it.

Is there Anything Else that I should do?

Yes–there is a “Living Will.” This is to deal with your wishes under certain circumstances, usually where you are in a “vegetative state” with no chance of improvement. There is also a “Health Care Surrogate.” This is to appoint someone who will make health care decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. We usually include these documents with our service for a will.

What Happens if I die without a Will?

Unlike a common misconception, this does not mean all your assets will go to the State. There are rules of inheritance in these cases, and only if there are no surviving relatives that can be found are the risks of losing the contents of the estate real.

The most common scenario is when one spouse dies. Even without a will, the surviving spouse will inherit. If there is no surviving spouse (or if you both die at once, like a car or plane crash), then the assets of the estate will be divided equally between the surviving children. many times the person who has the assets does not want a particular child to inherit. This can a be accomplished with a will, but if there is no will, he/she will get his/her equal share.

Do I have to go through Probate Process?

Not necessarily. If the estate is very small (there are ways to make it so) you may not have to go through probate at all. If it is less than $75,000 then you can do a “summary” process, which is quite straightforward. If it is over $75,000 then you will have to open probate. If you have a homestead exemption, it is not included in the $75,000.

Will I have to Pay Taxes on my Inheritance, or Pay Estate Taxes?

Inheritances do not create ea taxable event at the time, but subsequent sale of the assets probably will, but consult with your tax adviser for more information. Estate taxes are collectible in Florida, but the value of the estate has to be very high for them to apply (currently $11.2 million).

Can I Change my Will if Circumstances Change in the Future?

Yes you can, although it has to be done in writing with witnesses and the same formalities as the original one.

Can I do a Will Myself?

There are forms which can be purchases, and then you “fill in the blanks.” These are usually alright for the simplest of wills , but BEWARE–there was a recent case where just a small error cost the will maker $5,000 fighting a will dispute which she subsequently lost. In any case, you will still have to get it notarized in front of witnesses. Furthermore, handwritten wills are NOT acceptable in Florida.

How Much Does it Cost to Get you to do it?

Our normal price for a simple will is $400, with the cost of a “reciprocal will” (i.e. mirror image for husband and wife) being $600.