Preparing a will is important for Florida residents of all ages. When you’re planning to enter into a second marriage, or you’re already married for the second or subsequent time, thorough estate planning goes well beyond leaving a simple will, and it’s a critical step in ensuring that your assets are ultimately distributed as you intend.
Your Will May Not Be The Final Word Under Florida Law
While you may have given a great deal of thought and care in preparing your Last Will and Testament, and most people assume that that will be the end of any questions about distributing their assets after they die, there are some situations in which the law overrides your decisions. It’s critical to be aware of those potential issues and create a comprehensive estate plan that takes them into account.
The Florida Elective Share law says the surviving spouse is entitled to at least 30 percent of the estate of their deceased spouse, including their individually owned property, revocable trust, and share of any property jointly owned with a third party. The provisions of this law supersede any contradictory terms the decedent’s will may have included. While you may trust your spouse to set their right to make such a claim aside, and comply with the terms of your will, you should consider the fact that your surviving spouse may not be the one making the decisions in the future. If he or she is or becomes incapacitated, another person may be authorized to make an elective share claim against your estate on your surviving spouse’s behalf, even against that spouse’s wishes.
Florida law pertaining to homesteads may also override the terms of your will, in certain cases. Homestead law allows the homestead to be willed to a surviving spouse or minor child, but not to anyone else, if a spouse or minor child is still living. If your wish is to leave your homestead property to a parent, sibling, or anyone else, you’ll need additional estate planning measures to allow that bequest under the law.
Pre- And Post-Marital Agreements
Both pre-marital agreements and post-marital agreements are signed by both parties, and they provide a way for each spouse to arrange distribution of their estate assets as agreed, without running into situations where state law overrides their plans. It’s a common misconception that this type of arrangement and contract is only for wealthy people with large, complicated estates, but in fact, a pre- or post-marital agreement can make planning modest estates smoother and more secure, too.
Trusts And Mutual Wills
By coordinating the terms of their wills, and placing assets in a trust, couples can create a situation where each is assured that any children from previous marriages will be provided for as intended. This type of preparation reduces the chance that a surviving spouse might change their will after the first spouse dies, or that a situation might arise where state law would apply in a way that violates the terms the spouses agreed to.
Establish And Review Your Estate Plan
Estate planning is not a one-and-done matter. If you’ve already begun your estate planning, it’s wise to have those plans reviewed periodically, and any time your desired bequests change. The attorneys at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie, Finkenbinder & Bondy have decades of experience helping people with estates of all sizes plan for the future. Call or contact us online to schedule a consultation to get started on your estate planning, or a review of the plans you’ve already made.