Florida Will Lawyer
Serving Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Broward, Okeechobee and Martin Counties, and the Surrounding Areas
Your Florida Will is an essential part of your estate plan. Your Will is a written legal document that specifies how and to whom you want your assets distributed after you are gone. Our Florida estate planning lawyers will listen carefully to your goals and circumstances and will suggest the best methods for structuring your Will.
Your Will must be filed with the Florida Probate Court upon death. The court then supervises the distribution of your assets. Many people incorrectly believe that if their estate is modest and not subject to estate taxes, there will be no need for probate. This is a misconception! Any estate where assets must be distributed through the provisions of a Will is subject to probate, regardless of whether the estate is taxable.
What Happens if I Die in Florida Without a Will?
If you die without a Will (intestate), the State of Florida determines how your assets get divided, and who your beneficiaries will be. Under Florida law, your assets will be divided and distributed strictly in accordance with how closely potential heirs are related to you. The law does not care about your actual relationship to a potential heir.
For instance, if you are in a long-term relationship with another person, and you have children from a previous marriage, and you pass away without a Will or other estate planning instrument, your children will inherit all of your property, and your “partner” will get nothing. Thus if you are the sole owner of your house, your children would have the right to kick out your partner.
Can’t I Just Tell My Children How I Want My Property Divided?
No. Without a Will in Florida, a judge will decide who handles the administration of your estate. If you’re like most people, you’ll want to plan so that the court doesn’t make these important decisions for you! Without a Will, Florida law predetermines who your beneficiaries will be. For example, if you die without a spouse and have three adult children, each child will receive 1/3 of your probatable assets – even if one child has been estranged from you for many years.
What Is a Personal Representative in Florida?
Your Personal Representative (known as the executor in other states) is the person (or trust company or bank) you name in your Will who will be in charge of administering your estate. The Personal Representative’s duties include identifying and safeguarding your assets, notifying and paying creditors, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and paying taxes and fees.
The Personal Representative has the power to hire a Probate Lawyer, Certified Public Accountant, and other professionals to assist with these steps. The Personal Representative is required to report periodically to the Probate Court.
How Do I Select a Personal Representative?
Selecting a Personal Representative (or co-Personal Representatives) is easy for some people, harder for others. You must evaluate the individual’s level of responsibility, time constraints, etc. If you’re thinking of appointing several co-Personal Representatives — all your adult children, for example — you must assess whether they can work together amicably, or if being put in that situation will create friction among them.
Who May Serve as a Personal Representative in Florida?
You must also consider Florida restrictions on who may serve. For example, Florida allows you to choose a Personal Representative who resides out of state, but only if that person is a relative by blood or by an existing marriage. The estate planning attorneys of The Karp Law Firm can help you think through these issues so that you are comfortable with your choice.
What are the Duties of Personal Representatives in Florida?
In Florida, the primary duties of Personal Representatives include:
- Gather and create an accounting of all of the assets of the estate. It will be important to identify all of the assets of an estate as soon as possible.
- Publish a notice in a newspaper for creditors as required by law, and pay the legitimate claims of creditors.
- Arrange for final tax returns to be completed and filed.
- Distribute assets in accordance with a Will or intestacy law.
This is an overview of the key duties of Personal Representatives. When we meet with a Personal Representative we can advise of any additional duties that may be required.
If You’re In A Second Marriage: The Elective Share
Under Florida law, the spouse is entitled to 30% of the augmented estate. Your augmented estate includes both probatable assets and non-probatable assets. You may leave your spouse more than 30%, but this is the minimum required by law. A spouse may waive the elective share in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This is a common arrangement in the case of second marriages, when spouses want to be sure their own children from prior marriages ultimately inherit their assets.
For those with minor children, a Will is the only way to appoint a guardian for your child in the event of your death.
How Often Should You Review Your Will?
We recommend that your Will be reviewed every three years, or anytime there is a significant change in your financial, family, or health status. In fact, all aspects of your estate plan should be periodically reviewed. Changes in Florida laws and federal laws also make it important to touch base with your estate planning lawyer periodically, even if it seems nothing has changed in your own circumstances.
Our law firm offers clients free estate planning reviews every three years to discuss any changes that may be necessary.
Is a Will from Another State Good in Florida?
Not necessarily. Laws that govern Wills vary from state to state. And the laws in every state, including Florida, change from time to time. If your Will was created in another state, you should have it reviewed by an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer. Contact us for assistance.
A Will is Not a Do-It-Yourself Project!
Wills must conform to Florida law and must clearly and unambiguously reflect your wishes. While it may be tempting to use do-it-yourself forms, remember that a Last Will and Testament is just that — it’s the last thing you’ll do. If a mistake is discovered after your death, you don’t get a second chance to make things right! This is not an area in which to be penny-wise and pound foolish.
We urge you to contact us to investigate the best ways to provide protection for yourself during your lifetime, and for your loved ones when you’re gone.
Learn more about our Florida Estate Planning:
- Estate Planning
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Florida Living Trust FAQs
- Florida Estate Planning for Second Marriages
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Wealth Transfer and Tax Planning
- Special Needs Trusts
- Probate Avoidance
- Planning for Your Minor Child
- Leaving Your Home to Heirs
- Disinheriting An Heir
- Fiduciary Services
- Federal Estate Taxes
Our recent experience with the Karp Law Firm office assisted us in our family’s short and long-term estate planning details that we had not previously considered. Jon Karp was very knowledgeable, patient and created common sense solutions that were easy for us to understand. Important items were brought forward and included in a well-rounded and complete set of documents created at a modest cost. We came away feeling confident that the Karp Law Office had covered all our bases in a complete, professional and competent manner. We have slept soundly since reviewing the results of their work product. We have confidently recommended this firm to our many friends who have need for such services.
5 Star Review – Roy and Marilyn