We often emphasize how important it is to not die without a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) in place. In other words, we encourage you to not die “intestate.”
And having a Will is important.
But just having a Will simply isn’t good enough.
A Will Can’t Do Anything on its Own.
Just having a Will, or being named as a beneficiary in a Will, or being named as the personal representative, does nothing. In other words, it does not have an automatic legal effect.
When the maker of the Will (the “testator” or “testatrix”) dies, nothing happens.
You do not automatically have the power to make decisions about the estate. You do not automatically “come into” your inheritance.
Because, with few exceptions, a Will has no independent power outside of the court’s probate proceedings.
This means that simply depositing a Will with the probate court will not get you your money or give you the power to do anything.
Because a Will has no power until the court acts on it. The court must:
- admit the Will to probate, and
- appoint a personal representative.
Keep in mind, however, that the court won’t just act on its own. It requires filing legal documents with the court. Which is why Florida law requires that you have an attorney to start the probate process.
The law requires that anyone who has possession of a Will file it with the local circuit court within ten (10) days of learning of the testator’s death. If a probate court proceeding is necessary, the court will determine whether or not the Will is valid.
Whether a Will exists or not, probate is sometimes necessary to make sure that all outstanding debts and bills owed by the decedent are paid or eliminated.
Once the initial steps in the probate process have been completed, if there is a Will, it is used to determine how the decedent’s assets are to be distributed.
That is why having a valid Will is necessary. Not because it will avoid probate —it won’t —but to guide the court in how to handle your remaining assets according to your wishes.
Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.
Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to the Law Offices of Samantha J. Fitzgerald to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Samantha J. Fitzgerald, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.