Last Will and Testament Explained

What is a Last Will and Testament?

Someone with a good estate planning foundation, at a minimum, has an up-to-date Last Will and Testament. This legal document ensures the testator (the person drafting and executing the Will) that their belongings go to desired beneficiaries after their death.

Why should I create Last Will and Testament?

In Florida, residents that pass away without a Last Will and Testament have their belongings distributed as specified by Florida’s intestate succession rules. As a result, an estate may not be distributed in accordance with the deceased personal wishes.

A Will gives a testator the advantage to designate how much and to whom they want to give assets to, including organizations or individuals outside intestate succession. A Last Will and Testament also allow the creation of a trust for beneficiaries in the Will.

Beyond the legal description of how the testator wants their belongings distributed at their time of death, a Will also allows the testator to recognize and appoint individuals to carry out important administrative and emotional roles of their estate.

The appointment of a personal representative gives the testator peace of mind that at the time of their death, a trusteed individual will handle important administrative tasks as instructed in the Will. Some of these tasks include but are not limited to the ability to hire attorneys, contact beneficiaries, gather bills, manage asset inventory, open a bank account for the estate or file final personal income tax returns.

If the testator had children during their lifetime, they can grant guardianship of their children by appointing a guardian. This important and emotional appointment allows the testator to consider important factors that will affect the livelihood of their children, granting them peace of mind that the best person positioned for the responsibility is chosen or considered by the courts.

What should I consider before drafting and executing a Last Will and Testament?

  1. Probate. If your entire estate plan is based only on the creation of a Will, your estate will face estate administration (probate). During this process, a probate court will carry out the decedent’s presumed intent as specified in a legal Will when analyzing and transferring the testator’s estate.

  2. Life changes. The testator needs to periodically update the Last Will and Testament upon changes in circumstance for their families and personal lives. For example, in the event of a marriage, death, or divorce, beneficiaries might need to be updated to avoid their estate passing to unintended beneficiaries.

  3. Jurisdiction. Laws vary from state to state and as a result a Will is only valid in the state it is written and executed in.

  1. Do not DIY a Will. Although there is no legal requirement to have an attorney draft a Will, legal counsel is essential to ensuring your Will does not face family or legal disputes during probate. Moreover, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can save you a fortune in estate taxes.

  2. Consider a comprehensive estate plan. Will-based estate plans do not prepare you with the right tools in the unfortunate circumstance of becoming unable to control your finances or health decisions while you are alive. A good estate planning foundation includes legal documents that give control to individuals whom you feel would make the best health and financial decisions on your behalf. Moreover, using other important legal documents in conjunction with a Will can allow for the possibility of incurring fewer taxes and avoiding probate.

For additional information about estate planning, contact The Presser Law Firm, P.A. for a complimentary preliminary consultation. The Presser Law Firm P.A. 6830 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton FL 33487 (561) 953-1050 or email