As a Florida senior adult, enjoying life in the Sunshine State, do you have an estate plan in place? Did you know that research tells us that less than 50% of all Americans have an estate plan or even a will. We want you to know that without an estate plan in place your family may face difficulty after you pass away, including sorting out your assets and any debts you may have.

In regard to estate planning, no matter how big or how small, everyone has an estate and needs to plan for it. In fact, everything you own is included in your estate. Your home and all other real property you own, your cars, boats, trailers, bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, cash value life insurance, and personal property. These are all assets that could be inherited by someone else upon your passing.

So, what happens to your estate if you die without a will (which means you died intestate)? Most Floridians do not realize that in the absence of their planning for the future, the state of Florida has a plan to follow under its intestacy laws. Therefore, we would like to share three reasons why you need at least a Florida last will and testament to be sure your estate is passed on to your beneficiaries as you would wish.

1. You need a trusted decision maker of your own choosing. A will can serve as a guide for the personal representative you name to carry out your wishes. If you do not have a will, the probate court in your county will step in. The court will choose someone to be your personal representative who will probably be the closest relative the court can find who is willing to take on the job. Unfortunately, this may not be the same person you would have chosen, and he or she may not proceed with the care or knowledge of your wishes for your estate.

2. Your will tells everyone your assets and how they are to be divided. Again, if you die intestate, without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of the state of Florida. Sadly, this may not be how you would have wished them to be distributed. The order of those who will inherit from your estate are listed according to the Florida intestacy laws. The closest relatives are generally set to inherit, but depending on which family members survive you, the list may go down to your next closest relatives and beyond. If you pass away without any surviving family members, your property will probably pass to the state of Florida.

3. Having a will in place before you die is not just about money. With your will in place you can make provisions for your children and their care. In addition, if you want to be buried in a specific manner, you can put instructions about this in your will. A last will and testament can help you make sure things go as you want after you pass away.

Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers. We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.