Apr 1, 2011

No Florida Will? Does Florida Have a Plan For You!

It's said the only certainties are death and taxes. Most of us give taxes the necessary attention (especially this time of year). But we tend to stick our heads in the sand and dodge making plans for that other certainy. A March 2011 Harris poll shows that 57% of Americans over the age of 18 don't have a will! But it's not just the youngsters who are in denial. Among Baby Boomers ages 45 - 64, 44% don't have a will. And 22% of Americans over the age of 65 do not have one!

I see this all the time in my Florida elder law-estate planning practice. People in their seventies, sometimes their eighties, show up in my office after years of procrastination. They have decided to get moving (or because they just can't put up with their children's nagging any longer).  But as the poll shows, there are many more who will never set foot in a lawyer's office to complete this important planning.

There's no doubt that pondering one's mortality is not on the list of life's greatest pleasures. Going to the dentist isn't, either, but the process is generally not anywhere as uncomfortable as you imagine, and the outcome is fabulous: no dental pain. So it is with your estate planning. Once you get over the hump, the process isn't as uncomfortable as you'd feared, and the ultimate reward - peace of mind for you and your loved ones - is wonderful.

Now, what happens if you don't have a properly drafted, valid  Florida will or other estate planning device in place - i.e., die intestate? When you pass away, any asset that you own that does not have a beneficiary designation is going to be disposed of by, you guessed it, the State of Florida. Florida Statute 732.101 states "Any part of the estate of a decedent not effectively disposed of by will passes to the decedent’s heirs as prescribed in the following sections of this code." I won't go into those sections here, but you can read for yourself the Florida estate plan that the state government has in mind for you - whether you like it or not.

So even the people who don't have a Will, have one. It's just the one Florida has in mind for you. To control your own destiny, get your head out of the sand, and consult your Florida estate planning lawyer. Really, it won't hurt. Promise.

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