You’ve probably heard that you need a will, but do you understand why? And what a last will and testament is?
A will is a legal document that directs where your assets will go when you die. Although the legal requirements seem simple, there are a few requirements for a valid will you should know about.
Although the law allows a person to create a handwritten or holographic will, these are often easily contested. In recent years, the internet has been inundated with offers for do-it-yourself estate planning documents like a will, power of attorney, and living trust. However, studies have shown that none of these products are likely to meet all of a person’s needs.
At The Estate, Trust, & Elder Law Firm, our attorneys will guide you through the entire legal process. We ensure your Florida estate planning needs and affairs are settled as you’d hoped and give you a sound mind for the years ahead.
5 Reasons You Need an Attorney for Your Last Will and Testament
1) Minimize your time in probate court and save money
Most people know the main reasons to contact an attorney when making their estate plan. Wills can be contested by family members, which means they need to have language that makes them legal and valid. They must be notarized and have two witnesses sign the document.
Suppose you don’t seek legal advice or have an attorney draft your will. Then, when your estate is processed through probate court, your assets could be held and distributed against your wishes.
Even a straightforward probate process involves court proceedings and attorney meetings which can be stressful for grieving family members. In addition to keeping your assets from your heirs for months or even years, probate can consume a considerable amount of your estate’s value.
Using an attorney to draft your last will and testament can avoid these pitfalls, ensure everything is correctly taken care of, and reduce the stress your family will endure after you pass.
2) Take care of your children, especially those with special needs
You may have heard that having an attorney draft your will is crucial if you have minor children. If you die without a will, the court will use state law to determine where to leave your property and who will care for your children. Families with special needs children must use extra care when making their will. This is true whether your special needs child is a minor or an adult child, mainly if they receive public benefits such as Medicaid or SSI.
A well-prepared will ensures that your children receive the care and assets you want for them. The essence of estate planning for special needs children is to ensure that your death is not considered an available asset, which could impact the child’s eligibility for benefits.
3) Meet medical care legal requirements for your surviving spouse
If you have a spouse that enters long-term care before you die, you may want to consider making special provisions in your will. Although you aren’t required to hire a lawyer, the law firm you hire can create a trust for your assets and ensure that a nursing home won’t take your spouse’s inheritance.
Long-term care is often expensive, and many rely on programs like Medicaid to pay for that cost. To be eligible for Medicaid, the person depending on long-term care must have limited resources. If you leave everything to your spouse, they may lose the benefits that pay for their care.
4) Have a legal representative handle complex real estate and personal property holdings
Your state’s probate court only has authority over the property in your home state. For example, if you live and own a home in Florida, only Florida can oversee the transfer of this property. They cannot do anything about your condo in New York because your will isn’t valid in New York.
Hiring someone you trust can help you navigate your personal property and real estate, regardless of their complexity. In addition, they can help ensure your property will pass according to the instructions you leave behind.
5) Protect large retirement accounts and multiple bank accounts
Large sums of money, especially in multiple accounts, can be complicated to pass down to your loved ones. With most accounts, if you have a named beneficiary, those assets will pass directly on to them. However, suppose someone dies without having a beneficiary listed. In that case, things get more complicated for the surviving spouse, partner, or children.
If there is no will, generally, the state will appoint an executor to handle the legal formalities of your bank and retirement accounts. They will usually be required to use the money to pay creditors first. Then they will be able to distribute the funds according to the laws of your state to settle your estate. While this may sound overwhelming, the reality is that having your will drafted is simple when you use a trusted estate planning attorney and can prevent a lot of these concerns.
A will should leave nothing to the imagination. One of the biggest mistakes people make is relying on an online creation tool. While that may be less expensive upfront, it could be much more costly. Your will may be invalid or not consider your state’s estate tax laws. It also may not allow your beneficiaries to maximize their inheritance.
Don’t try to handle the stress of creating an estate plan on your own. Instead, make sure it’s legally binding by speaking to a qualified estate planning attorney at The Estate, Trust, & Elder Law Firm in Fort Pierce, Florida. We will ensure the proper documentation to protect your family and the legacy you want to leave behind for them.