ELEVEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A WILL
1. Write a will or the state will write one for you. Under the laws of intestacy, the state of Florida will allocate your assets among your family. If you have no family, the assets will go to the State of Florida. With a will, you choose your beneficiaries.
2. Select the person who will handle your affairs. State law gives preference to certain family members in the appointment of your Personal Representative, unless you select one in your will.
3. Save your family time and probate costs. With a will, estate administration will move more quickly, the costs of administration will be lower, and you can save estate taxes by including certain provisions in your will. In addition, your Personal Representative will be able to sell real estate without a court order.
4. Create trust provisions for minors and young adults. Without a will, a guardian must be appointed to manage the property of a minor, and the guardian must obtain court approval for all expenditures. This is an expensive and time-consuming process. In addition, at age 18, the young adult will have full access to the inheritance, even if he or she is too immature to handle it. With a properly drafted will, you may appoint a trustee to manage the property in a “testamentary trust” (any trust created in a will) for minors and young adults, and you may choose when and how they will receive their inheritance.
5. Preserve government benefits. If you make a bequest to a disabled person of any age who is receiving Medicaid or other government benefits, you could cause the beneficiary to lose those benefits, unless the bequest is included in a “special needs trust” under your will.
6. Protect a spouse on Medicaid. Don’t disinherit your spouse if he or she is receiving Medicaid nursing home benefits. This could terminate his or her eligibility. However, you can provide for your spouse, while preserving those benefits and not “giving it all to the nursing home” or the government by including a “qualifying special needs trust” in your will.
7. Protect the inheritance against divorce and lawsuits. With a testamentary trust, you may provide that the beneficiary’s inheritance will be protected against a lawsuit for an under-insured medical claim or a personal injury claim. You can also protect the beneficiary should he or she ever file for bankruptcy or get divorced.
8. Protect your children’s inheritance from second marriages. You may not wish to leave all of your estate outright to your spouse. Rather, you may wish to leave some of your estate to your spouse in a testamentary trust. You might provide, for example, that your spouse will receive all of the income as well as any principal that he or she might need for support. Your spouse can even be the trustee. However, this assures you that when your spouse dies, the remaining principal will be distributed to your children (and not to a second spouse or that spouse’s family).
9. Special provisions that you can include in your will. You can leave burial instructions, provide for alternate personal representatives, trustees and guardians. In addition, you always retain the right to amend or revoke your will should you see the need for change.
10. Make a gift to charity. With a will, you can leave something to your favorite charity.
11. Give yourself peace of mind. By making a will, you will know that you have put your affairs in order, and your family will know that you cared enough to do so.
For additional information or to schedule an appointment, call Palm Beach County Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorney Martin H. Cohen at 561-880-8223.