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Haile Shaw & Pfaffenberger Attorneys at Law

Why is a Legal Will Important [Is it Necessary?]

Do I need a will if I have beneficiaries?

Why you need a legal will [What happens without one]

Recently, The New York Times published an article about the lack of Americans who have drawn up a legal will. A recent study conducted by Caring.com found that fewer than half of American adults (42 percent) have a legal will and the most common reasoning for it is, “I just haven’t gotten around to it.”

The survey also found that:

  • One in five millennials, adults 18 to 36, have a legal will
  • 81 percent of people 72 and older have a legal will
  • 36 percent of adults with minor children have a legal will

If you find yourself making excuses for why you haven’t gotten around to writing up a will yourself, here are a few reasons why you might want to set some time aside to create one.

Wills to Protect Assets

Having a will is vital in making sure that your money and belongings go to who you wish after you die. So what happens if you don’t have a will? It’s up to the courts to decide.

In Florida, the intestacy statute (“intestate” meaning – dying without a will) dictates how a person’s assets are distributed through probate. When a person in Florida dies without a will, the statute mandates:

  • The surviving spouse receives the entire estate when the decendent has no descendants.
  • The surviving spouse receives one half of the estate when there are living descendants of the decedent; the other half is distributed among the decedent’s surviving descendants.
  • The surviving descendants receive the entire estate of an individual who was not married at the time of death.
  • When a decedent has no surviving spouse or descendants, the entire estate is left to the decedent’s parents. If there are no surviving parents, the estate passes to all surviving siblings.
  • The estate of decedents with no surviving spouses, descendants, parents or siblings, will be distributed among relatives.
  • The estate will escheat (be passed) to the State of Florida for any person with no surviving heirs. Properties are sold and the proceeds are deposited into the State School Fund. There is a 10-year statute of limitations for an individual to make a claim of entitlement.

The cost of that bond is usually about $100 per year for every $100,000 in the estate, is paid by the estate’s assets.

What Happens When a Beneficiary Dies?

When someone dies without appointing an executor through a will, the court appoints an administrator to disburse all property that wasn’t jointly owned with a survivor. The administrator then posts a bond to ensure that he does not loot the estate and vanish. The cost of that bond is usually about $100 per year for every $100,000 in the estate, is paid by the estate’s assets.

Advising Fiduciaries and Beneficiaries

If you are in a domestic partnership, generally, if you die without a will and are survived by that partner, they inherit the same as a surviving spouse. In Broward County Florida, the law extends benefits to domestic partners and provides a domestic partner registry. The city of West Palm Beach extends benefits to domestic partners.

Do I Need a Will if I Have No Assets?

What if you don’t have any assets? We would still advise a legal will. If you die at the hands of someone else, your estate might have a wrongful death suit that produces millions of dollars in costs, all of which will be divvied up by the state if there’s no will instead of being distributed to whomever you choose in the amount and manner that you choose.

 To find out where you should keep your legal will depending on what option you choose, read the rest of The New York Times article here.

Of course, we at Haile Shaw & Pfaffenberger believe that consulting with a lawyer is the safest bet when drawing up a will. Our Estate planning law team including wills and trusts helps protect your assets and works to ensure the proper distribution of those assets.

Give us a call today 561-627-8100.


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