Estate Planning: Why Wills Aren’t Just for Princes

Last WillThe death of the musician Prince is more than just a tragedy of a brilliant life cut way too short. It’s also a reminder that anything can happen at any time, and a cautionary tale for all of us about the importance of drafting a will, no matter how far off death may appear.

According to an article in the New York Times, Prince, who died at age 57 and had no spouse or children, died without a will, a situation legally known as dying intestate. And before you say, “I don’t have the assets that he had,” know that dividing up dollars is not the only benefit a will provides.

If you don’t currently have an updated will, consider drafting one. Here are some reasons why it could be important:

1. A will says who will be the executor of your estate.

The executor is the person in charge of handling the legal process, or probate, after your death. A good executor, who in Florida is called a personal representative, works with an attorney to ensure that your estate is divided up quickly and fairly; a poor one can delay or prejudice the process and stoke friction within the surviving family.

2. A will names the guardian for your children.

If you’ve got young children, having an updated will is crucial. This document names the friend or relative you want to take care of your kids, known as their guardian, until they turn 18, a designation that keeps grandparents or siblings from battling it out after you’re gone. And if you drafted a will and named a guardian when your children were tiny and now they’re teens, take another look to see if the guardian needs changing. When my kids were little, we named my wife’s sister in another state as their guardian, because she was raising kids of her own; once our kids became teens, it made sense to switch it to their local grandparents, so they wouldn’t be uprooted from their friends and school if tragedy struck.

3. A will lets you decide where your assets are going.

Of course, the biggest reason you should have a will is that, without one, it is state law, not you, that dictates who gets what. You may want your best friend to get your new Lexus, for example, but the law states that without a will your assets go to your closest relatives–even if you haven’t spoken to them in years.

If you would like to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, please contact us at The Law Office of Gary Landau, P.A. Our office is conveniently located in Coral Springs, Florida.