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Six things to know about creating a will

Wills are the most widely recognized estate planning documents. Most people have at least some idea of what a will does. Simply put, a will is a legal document that allows you to pass on assets to your heirs.

However, you probably do not know all the specifics of creating a will. When it comes to your estate, what you do not know can hurt you, or at least hurt your ability to pass your assets on to beneficiaries. Below are six things you may not know about creating a will.

What can you include in a will?

When you create a will, you name an executor. An executor is a person who will manage your estate, and see that all your assets are distributed as you have outlined. Some assets you can include in a will are your home, vacation property, vehicles, art, furniture, money and other goods.

If you have minor children, you can also name a guardian for your children in your will. A guardian will raise your children if something happens to you and your spouse. If you do not name a guardian, the court will likely appoint your next of kin as guardian. This may or may not who you want raising your children.

What assets cannot be included in a will?

Certain assets cannot be included in a will. Retirement plans like an IRA or 401k cannot be included. You name beneficiaries when you create these accounts, and a will cannot override those designations.

You cannot include life insurance policies with a named beneficiary. Again, the beneficiary receives these proceeds, and a will cannot supersede this designation. You may also have bank accounts set up as payable-on-death accounts. These proceeds will go to the person you designated. If you own a home with another person, known as joint tenancy, that property will go to the surviving owner when you pass.

What happens if you do not have a will?

If you have no estate planning documents like a will in place, your estate is intestate. The probate court will appoint an administrator who will distribute your assets based on Florida’s laws. This generally means your assets will pass to your next of kin. However, you have no say in how your estate is distributed, and your family may wind up fighting over your property.

Can my spouse and I share a will?

Estate planners usually recommend you and your spouse have separate wills. It is very unlikely you will pass away at the same time. You likely also have property held in your individual names, so with separate wills, you can ensure this property passes to your spouse or other family as you see fit. If you have children from a previous relationship, this also allows you to make specific allocations for them.

Where should you keep a will?

You want to put your will in a safe place, but you also want your family to know where it is. A safe deposit box may not be the best answer because your family might have to get a court order to access it. A fireproof safe might be a good idea. You could also ask your attorney to keep a copy of your will.

Can you use a will you created in another state?

You may have a will you created before you moved to Florida. While that is better than no will, your previous will may not comply with Florida law. That could lead to legal issues that may need to be settled before your loved ones can receive their inheritance. You should consider having a Florida attorney review your previous will to make sure it is compliant with the state’s laws.

A will can be a straightforward legal document. However, it is important you understand what can and cannot be included in it, as well as the importance of keeping it safe and having a separate will from your spouse.

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