Let’s face an uncomfortable fact: each of us has a date with death. However, if you have a will, you can still have a voice in how your estate is distributed to your beneficiaries.
While you may have considered creating a do-it-yourself will, there are plenty of intricacies in Florida statutes that could supersede your wishes if your will isn’t prepared correctly. At the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., our wills attorneys are experienced in drafting documents that are legally robust and stand up in court.
How Many Americans Have Wills?
In a 2022 survey by Caring.com, an information site for caregivers, researchers found only 33.1% of adult Americans have a will. The top reason cited for not having a will was procrastination, with 40% of survey respondents saying they hadn’t gotten around to it.
The survey noted that 63% of American adults believe that people should have wills if they are 55 or older, but only 45% of those aged 55-plus actually have a will or other estate planning documents. Interestingly, young adults (age 18-34) are now 50% more likely to have a will or other estate planning documents than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a Will, the State of Florida Makes Decisions that You Might Not Want or Like
In Florida, if you die without a will (referred to as “intestate”), the court will decide who receives your estate using a court procedure called probate. A typical probate timeline can last from a few months to more than a year. Your estate consists of all your possessions, such as your home and its furnishings, vehicles, jewelry, artwork, and even your pets. If you have minor children and there is no surviving biological parent, the court will choose a guardian for them.
Florida statutes for intestate settlements follow a family pattern, starting with the surviving spouse and children. If necessary, the circle widens to grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Throw in the possibility of half-blood relatives and blended families, and it’s clear that the court may take a long time to carve out who gets what.
Of course, before your estate is distributed to your relatives, the court will use your estate to settle any debts and taxes you may have owed before your death. The court will also use your assets to pay attorney’s fees. Many people don’t know that our laws provide how much an attorney can be paid. The fee that is presumed reasonable is 3% of the value of the estate plus any income earned during the course of administration. So, a $500,000 estate could result in your heirs paying attorney’s fees of $15,000 or more!
No Will and No Relatives? Again, Florida Steps In
If you die without a will, the State of Florida will determine who inherits your assets. We have seen estates with upwards of 100 heirs! and leave no surviving relatives, the State of Florida inherits your estate. Through this process, called “escheat,” Florida sells your items and closes your bank accounts. The collected money is deposited in the State School Fund. Should a distant relative of yours surface, he or she has 10 years from the time you died to file a claim and assert entitlement to the proceeds.
With the Right Attorney, You Can Have the Will You Want
To give your family and friends peace of mind after you die, ask a wills attorney to help you make a will that clearly defines your wishes. Whether you want to give your best friend your comic book collection or your entire estate to an animal shelter, your will ensures that your property goes to the people or organizations you choose.
The Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., have handled wills for numerous clients in Florida, including those in Palm Harbor and Dunedin. Our wills attorneys take the time to answer all your questions – plus we ask you pertinent questions, because we want to make sure you understand all options available to you under Florida law. Some of our clients have property in Florida and other states, and we work carefully to ensure your will meets all legal requirements wherever you own assets.
Is a Will the Same as a Living Will or a Trust?
No. These are three separate documents, with three separate purposes.
- A will goes into effect after you die. It states who will receive your property and names guardians for your minor children, adults who have special needs, and your pets.
- A living will, also known as an advance directive, instructs people how to treat you medically should you become incapacitated.
- A trust, sometimes called a living trust, is a legal entity that specifies how assets will be distributed to you during your lifetime and, after you die, to your beneficiaries.
Using these tools and other legal instruments, the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., can tailor a plan that meets your needs now and protects your legacy.
I Don’t Want to Procrastinate. How Do I Find a Wills Attorney Near Me in Florida?
Founder and managing attorney Sherri Stinson has a “superb” ranking from Avvo, a non-profit attorney rating agency, and is a Martindale-Hubbell AV-Preeminent rated attorney. She and the team at the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., are dedicated to helping you create the will you want to positively affect the future of those you love.
Take action today. Call us at (727) 351-7057 or fill out our contact form to request a consultation. We are happy to meet you at our Palm Harbor office or through a video call. Florida law requires wills to be signed in person, and in special circumstances, we will come to your home to facilitate this obligation. We look forward to serving you.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.