by Estate Planning Attorney Nydia Menendez
This may be the most myth-dispelling article you will ever read on the topic of Estate Planning. That’s because Wills are the Estate Planning tool with which most people are familiar. And people also believe Wills are sufficient for their needs. In fact, most clients call our office asking to prepare a Will so that they can leave their affairs in order and their loved ones taken care of. But is a Will the best way to do that?
Our goal is to clarify what a Will really is, as well as what it is not.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that activates at death, in which you give specific instructions about how you want your assets distributed when you pass away. In the Will you also nominate the Personal Representative. This is the person who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes.
The Will only focuses on distribution of assets, and – as if minor children were assets – a Will can also be used to name who you would want to be Guardians for any minors left behind.
The Probate Process
One of the biggest problems with a Will is that it has to be presented to a court for administration. That is known as the judicial Probate process. And, with respect to the appointment of Guardians for minors, that too would have to be court approved, through the judicial Guardianship process.
No Incapacity Protection
Another huge shortcoming of a Will is that it activates at death, which means that a Will provides no plan in the event of incapacity. Statistically, 70% of persons over the age of 65 will experience some form of incapacity during their lifetimes. So, failing to consider incapacity leaves a big gap in planning. In other words, if you do become disabled in the future your family would need to go through the Guardianship process for the courts to determine who would manage your affairs.
A Will Doesn’t Capture What Matters Most
When we ask our clients what is most important to them, they answer family, friends, health, values, relationships, shared experiences, memories, etc. Clients never tell us that what matters most is their assets or their stuff. Yet, the main role of a Will is the distribution of assets. In other words, a Will only addresses what likely matters least to many of us!
Still, a Will is the most commonly known and requested Estate Planning tool. I think the reason for this is because many people think a Will constitutes an Estate Plan. But, when I explain to my clients what a Will is, compared to other planning alternatives, they usually realize that a Will is not what they actually want.
Just know this: a Will by itself will likely not accomplish your Estate Planning goals. Because if your goal is to put your affairs in order, a Will is not going to get you there!
Where to Get Started?
If you want to learn more about how to plan for your future to make sure you leave a legacy for your loved ones, we invite you to call our office at (954) 963-7220 to speak with a member of the Menéndez Law Firm who can help you navigate the process of creating a unique Estate Plan to meet your family’s needs. You may also want to watch the video series on our YouTube channel or join us for the next live Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning webinar on Zoom by registering at no charge on our website www.menendezlawfirm.com
Estate Planning Attorney
Menéndez Law Firm
2699 Stirling Road, Suite B200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Tel.: (954) 963-7220
Fax: (954) 963-7232