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Unless you execute a will, you will have no say about your assets

You probably don't normally sit around talking about your own mortality, unless you are among others in Florida who are currently suffering from terminal illness. Either way, you may also be like many people throughout that nation who prefer not to discuss such matters as it can be rather uncomfortable. On the other hand, based on recent news stories regarding famous people who died without first executing estate plans, you may already understand the importance of getting your own documents in order, regardless of your current state in life.

Just because you may not have an estate worth millions of dollars doesn't mean you shouldn't file a final will and testament. There are other estate planning documents that may also serve a purpose to help you protect what you own and make sure your wishes regarding finances and medical treatment are clearly understood.

What's so bad about dying without a will?

If you die with no final will and testament in place, your estate becomes intestate. The following list provides basic facts and information regarding an intestate status and potential problems that might occur for your loved ones down the line if you are no longer here to make your wishes known:

  • Intestacy laws vary by state. Generally, speaking, such laws determine how your assets will be distributed if you die without specifying who should inherit the property, money or other items you own at the time of your death.
  • If you happen to own a vacation home or any other property in another state, those assets will become subject to the intestacy laws of that particular state.
  • Your state in life at the time of your death is a defining characteristic that may affect the way your assets are distributed, such as whether you have children, were married at the time or were single with no children.
  • The latter condition above would likely mean that your parents (if still living) would inherit your entire estate.
  • If you were married at the time of your death but had no children, your marital property would typically be granted to your spouse and any assets you owned separate from your spouse would go to your parents and siblings, if appropriate.

You may have read about rock star Prince or pop music icon George Michael when they died. Their estate situations were polar opposites. Michael reportedly passed away with a thoroughly planned, solidly executed estate plan in place while Prince died with no final will or any other existing estate plans, which led to a contentious battle among several people who claimed to be his heirs.

Unless you want a probate court to decide who should inherit what you leave behind, you'll want to make sure you put your own wishes and instructions in writing ahead of time. There are certain prerequisites that make your estate plan valid, such as a requirement that you be of sound mind when you sign a particular document. If you have questions about your own situation and how best to secure your assets, you can turn to someone well-versed in Florida estate planning laws for guidance.

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