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Wills and Trusts

Jacksonville Probate and Estate Planning Lawyer

Wills and Trusts

1. Do I Need a Will? 

Every person, especially those people with children, should have a Will. You would never want your property distributed by state laws and by persons that are court-appointed who may never have known you. But that is what happens if you die intestate, or without a Will. When you die without a Will, your property will be distributed according to a formula fixed by law. This formula is rigid and makes no exceptions for your wishes or for any special needs your heirs may have. When there is no Will, the court appoints a personal representative, known or unknown to you, to manage your estate. With so much at stake, it is easy to see why anyone over the age of eighteen with property or children should have a properly drafted Will.

2. What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that specifies who will get your property when you die and who you would like to act as personal representative to handle your affairs when the time comes to probate the Will. A Will is also your opportunity to leave specific personal items to persons who would particularly enjoy them. This can prevent arguments over who gets what - which can happen when the Will leaves the contents of the house to be divided equally among the heirs.

3. What are the Legal Requirements in Florida? 

You must be at least eighteen years old and of sound mind. Your Will must be written. Your Will must be witnessed and notarized in the special manner provided by law. It is necessary to follow exactly the formalities required for the execution of a Will. To be effective your Will must be proved in and allowed by the probate court.

Your Will does not become final until you die, and it can be changed at any time by drawing up a new Will. However, you cannot change your will by crossing something out or writing on it after the Will is executed. Doing that may actually invalidate all or part of the Will. You should review your Will whenever there is a change in family circumstances - marriage, divorce, birth, adoption, death or a change of residence to a new state. You should also review it whenever there is a major change in your assets.

4. Is a Trust a Substitute for a Will? 

In most cases, no. A trust may be used in addition to a Will. This is because a trust can handle only the property that has been put into it. It is the Will that controls all property in a decedent’s name at the time of death if the will is drafted properly. A decision whether or not you need a trust should only be made on an individual basis, after consultation with an attorney skilled in estate planning.

The drafting of a Will involves skills that can be obtained only by years of training and experience. You need an attorney that not only prepares Wills, but who is also experienced in probate and understands the consequences of property devised by Will. A poorly written Will can be far more costly to straighten out than the cost to have a lawyer prepare a properly written Will right from the start. Don’t wait until it is too late - call now and let me prepare your Will so that you can rest, knowing that your property will be distributed to your loved ones according to your wishes.

My firm has been helping people with wills and probate matters for over 49 years and I will work with you to make sure that your rights are protected and your wishes properly carried out.