This week’s blog post in our “Financial Planter” series is written by Tomer L. Alcalay, Esq., an attorney licensed in Flordia and New York.*
When asked about having a Will (or a Last Will and Testament), many people respond that it is not a priority, they are too young or their assets do not warrant the need for one. While the thought of something unthinkable occurring to ourselves is uncomfortable, being prepared is crucial for everyone, at any age. So the real question we want to answer is what is a Will anyway and why have one?
A Will is a legal document that sets out a person’s final wishes and is used to direct the disposition of their assets, otherwise known as their estate, following their passing.
Without a Will, the disposition of the estate is governed by the intestacy laws of the deceased person’s state of domicile (the state in which they permanently resided at the time of their death). These laws differ from state to state, but in essence, identify the priority of successive tiers of living relatives that would be entitled to share in the estate. If there are no identifiable persons that are close enough in relation to the deceased individual, the assets revert to the State.
Friends, unmarried couples, and other unrelated parties would not be given consideration in the eyes of the law. The picture can get even more obscure when familial structure is complicated by multiple marriages, children, adoptions, half-siblings and other extended relations, or the estate contains real estate in multiple states or assets in other countries, invoking laws of multiple jurisdictions. This complexity may lead to prolonged and costly disputes over inheritance that take a toll on both the value of the estate and the relations of the family.
Use of a Will allows a person to choose who receives what from their estate. Unlike intestacy which looks for related parties, a Will allows a person to freely allocate their assets amongst friends, charities or such other parties of their choosing in addition to, or even to the exclusion of, family members. The Will typically identifies a trusted individual or individuals to serve as the personal representative to administer the estate and ensure that the assets are distributed in accordance with the instructions contained in the Will.
Personal finances being a very private and sensitive subject, families are often unaware of what assets exist or where such assets may be located. The contents of the Will, or use of specific lists attached thereto, can identify these assets and prevent loss of wealth for the family caused by lack of information or transparency.
Beyond the monetary considerations, a Will can be used to address personal matters such as burial preferences, guardianship for children and other dependents, and care for surviving pets.
It is critical to consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction to ensure proper preparation and execution of a Will to take into account the specific laws applicable to your estate as well as other pitfalls that may interfere with the disposition of your estate in accordance with your wishes. For example, laws of other jurisdictions may be applicable due to the presence of assets in such jurisdictions.
DISCLAIMER: This article is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the author of this article. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Tomer L. Alcalay, Esq. is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information or found by following any link within this blog.
Tomer L. Alcalay, Esq. is an attorney and one of the founders of Norsoph, Alcalay & Orner LLP (NAO Law), a law firm based in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida. As head of NAO Law’s Corporate, Real Estate and Wills, Trusts & Estates groups, he oversees the firm’s transactional practice. Tomer regularly represents corporate clients in the formation and operation of businesses including corporations, limited liability companies, limited liability partnerships and all other forms of legal entities. He has assisted buyers, sellers and investors in the structuring, negotiation and closing of complex business transactions (i.e. mergers & acquisitions, stock purchases, asset sales, etc.). He is experienced in the drafting and negotiation of purchase and sale contracts, leases, operating agreements and other corporate documents and agreements.
Tomer also maintains an active Wills, Trusts & Estates practice helping clients with the transfer, disposition and preservation of assets together with crucial family and health contingency planning through powers of attorney, health directives and other legal instruments.