Living Wills & Last Will and Testament Attorneys in Pensacola
No matter how much property you own or what your financial situation is, every person should have a will. A standard will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, designates in writing your final wishes after you pass on. Without a will, your assets may be tied up in probate for an extended period of time, leaving the final decisions regarding who receives your property up to the courts. Another important estate planning document is a living will. Living wills, also known as advanced directives, provide written instructions regarding future medical decisions should you become incapacitated.
At the Law Offices of Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., our attorneys have over six decades of combined experience helping clients develop estate plans that fully address their needs. We have extensive knowledge of wills, living wills, trusts, and other important estate planning tools, and we work closely with clients to develop the plan that is just right for them. We also have an in-depth understanding of several other practice areas that often become intertwined with estate planning, such as real estate and family law. This allows us to develop estate plans of all levels of complexity with innovative solutions that come from our many years of comprehensive experience.
The Benefits of Creating a Will
In Florida, most estates must go through the probate process, regardless of whether or not you have a will. There are some types of property that may not have to go through probate, such as assets owned jointly, accounts with a designated beneficiary, and trusts. With a valid Last Will and Testament, the probate process is more streamlined and predictable.
There are many reasons to consider creating a will. Some of the most important include:
- You Decide How your Property is Distributed: If you die without a will in Florida, your property is divided up between your spouse and “descendants” in various ways as determined by the probate court based on Florida intestate succession laws. With a will, you can decide who you want your property to go to when you pass on. This could be especially important if you have certain descendants that you do not want to receive property, or if you have someone close to you whom you are not married to or related to, but you want them to receive an inheritance.
- You Appoint the Executor: It is very important that your final affairs are administered by someone you can trust to carry out the directives of your will in accordance with your final wishes. If you have a will, you decide in advance who will be the executor of your estate. Without a will, the probate court makes this decision for you.
- You Decide who Looks after your Minor Children: If you have any children under the age of 18 and you die without a will, the courts will ultimately decide who will become guardian and raise your minor children. This is a very important decision, and one that you should make rather than the courts.
- You Can Reduce the Chances of a Legal Dispute: It is not uncommon for individuals who die without a will to have family members fight over who receives what property. This can lead to costly and protracted legal battles. If you have a will, the likelihood of a legal challenge is vastly reduced. Though wills can be contested, if the will is validly executed in accordance with state laws, the chances are minimal that any family member would decide to go that route.
Changing your Will after a Divorce
In Florida, an old will can be canceled by the creation of a new one. A properly worded Last Will and Testament will contain a statement that revokes/cancels all previous wills. If you are currently facing a divorce or you are legally separated, this is a good time to update your will. For example, if your (soon to be) ex-spouse is currently the executor of your estate, you may want to change that and appoint a new executor. You may also want to change your heirs and update the distribution of your property based on your post-divorce circumstances. Our attorneys can guide you through this process to ensure that important life changes are fully addressed in your updated will.
Florida Living Wills
If you are no longer able to make health care decisions because of an injury, illness, or advanced age, having a living will in place can help ensure that the right decisions are made based on your wishes. Living wills are advanced health care directives that give instructions on which treatments and procedures you want to receive and which ones you want to forego if you should become physically or mentally incapacitated. A living will can provide detailed instructions to doctors, caregivers, and family members, allowing you to receive the care you want in various situations while relieving your family members of making these difficult decisions on their own and without your input.
Along with a living will/advanced directive, it is a good idea to appoint a medical power of attorney. In Florida, this is referred to as a Health Care Surrogate. A health care surrogate is a trusted person that is designated to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to make these decisions on your own. Used in conjunction with a living will, you can ensure that you have the right person in place to carry out your wishes as stated in the advanced directive document.
Speak with a Seasoned Florida Estate Planning Lawyer
Wills and living wills are important aspects of an estate plan. You may prepare these documents on your own using some type of ‘do-it-yourself’ kit, but this could have unintended consequences. These kits may be valid and legal, but they are usually very basic and do not take into account specific circumstances and the legal ramifications of various decisions you make. By working with an experienced attorney, you can ensure that these documents are created in a way that fully protects your interests and accounts for all known eventualities.
At the Law Offices of Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., we take the time to listen and understand the unique needs of our clients, and we put our in-depth experience to work to create the right estate plan to address your needs. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today at 850-500-1111 or send us a message through our online form. You may also stop by our Pensacola office.