Put Your Intentions in Writing
Here is a common situation. An elderly person wants to provide for a grandchild or a niece or nephew and tells her children about her intentions. “When I die, make sure to give Joe $20,000 for a down payment on a home” or things to this effect. However, the elderly person dies without making any changes to her will or dies without ever having drafted a will.
Under the law, a deceased person’s estate passes to beneficiaries named in a valid will or trust. If neither document exists, then Florida’s default intestacy rules apply, and the estate would likely pass to a spouse and/ or surviving children. Unfortunately, verbal directions to do something have no real force, so you should make sure that your intentions are reflected in your estate plan.
Why Good Intentions are Not Enough
Many people simply assume that their children will follow their wishes after death, but the reality is far different. Many children might forget your verbal instructions, or they find the money they inherit too tempting and don’t want to part with it. The sad reality is that, after you are gone, people can back out of something they agreed to while you were living, and there isn’t anything you can do about it at that point.
Sometimes, outside events intervene. For example, one of your children might suddenly have financial difficulties and apply for bankruptcy protection. As a result, your child will lose his or her inheritance. The same can happen if they get into a car accident or are sued for another reason and lose the court case. The assets you leave them might go to paying a court judgment. They won’t be able to give money or property to who you want because they involuntarily lost it.
If you want to provide for someone, you need to draft an estate plan or amend your current plan. These steps will ensure that the people you want to receive money or property actually do.
Administering Your Estate
There is another reason that mere verbal instructions are inadequate. The person tasked with administering your estate after death, the personal representative, is required by law to follow the directions contained in a valid will. This person cannot give property to someone else because you told them to before dying. They would be breaking the law if they did.
The same principle applies if you die without a will. Florida’s laws identify who is to receive your estate and the personal representative can be personally sued if he or she does not follow the law. To ensure your wishes are followed, make sure to meet with an elder law attorney today.
Representing Clients in The Villages, Florida
To amend your estate plan, please contact Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group. We have helped the community in The Villages for decades and we are available to discuss your goals. Our estate planning attorneys can then amend or draft a will or trust.
Contact us today by calling 800-743-9732. We offer a free consultation.