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Why You Should Have a...

Why You Should Have a Will

I was over at my lawyer’s office this week to modify my will. I remember going many years without having a will. It was very foolish not having one because if you don’t, you have given up any say in your affairs after your death. You take such good care of your life and family during your life, why not provide direction after you’re gone?

What is a last will and testament? Most of us think we know what a will is, but do we really? If you said that a will is a document where a person declares who gets his or hers assets upon death, you are only partly right. A will does much more than that.

Guardianship of Your Children
Do you ever wonder who your children will live with after you’re gone. They may go to relatives you don’t approve of if your wishes are not stated in a will. If you have children under the age of eighteen, a will is the place where you declare whom you want to be the guardian in the event of your death.

The courts will decide who gets custody of your minor children based on what is in your children’s best interest, but judges will give great weight to the stated wishes of a child’s natural parents. Judges can’t do this unless you have stated those wishes. And the place to state them is in your will.

Administration of Your Estate
You don’t have to be rich to want to ensure that after your death your property and assets are not squandered or stolen. A will is the place where you appoint someone you trust to administer, manage, and distribute your assets. If you don’t appoint someone to do this for you, the court will appoint a total stranger to serve in this capacity for a fee.

Guardianship of Your Children’s Property
Minors do not have the capacity to contract and therefore do not have ownership rights to property. An adult must be appointed to manage a minor’s property until the minor becomes of age. But even after your children reach the age of eighteen, you probably won’t want them to have full ownership rights to your property because if they are anything like I was at eighteen, they’ll probably blow it all in beer. A will is where you not only decide who gets your property but when and how they will get it.

Separate Writing
Florida law allows you to keep a list of special items you wish to leave to certain beneficiaries upon you death. This list may be updated by you at anytime without the need for revision of or amendment to your will.

Some examples:

  • An engagement ring to a niece
  • A baseball card collection to a nephew
  • A library to an grandson
  • A photo album to a brother

Living Will
Sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? Well, a living will is a document that tells your health-care provider under what conditions you wish not to be revived. It is an essential part of your estate plan. In it you will name one or more health-care surrogates who are empowered by you to make decisions about your health in the event you are incapable of doing so.

Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document that you execute authorizing someone of your choosing (usually a close relative or trusted friend) to handle your affairs in the event you become incapable of doing so. Like the living will, this is an essential part of your estate plan.

For so long I put off having a will made. Don’t make the same mistake. For only a few hundred dollars you can have peace of mind. This week make plans to see a lawyer and draw up a will.