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A Simple Primer On Wills And When To Use Them.

Types Of Wills

Did you know that there are at least three types of wills?  

Most people don’t.  

From their names, you might think that the three most common types of wills are all similar; you couldn’t be more wrong.  

There is no connection between the three types of wills other than the similarity in their names.  

Below is a brief primer on the three most common types of wills.  

Last Will And Testament

The last will and testament is a legal document that sets forth your wishes after you die.  

Typical topics in a last will and testament include:

  • who inherits your property and when they can access your assets (for example, if you have children, you may want to have your property transferred into a trust and only accessible for certain purposes when your children reach a certain age);
  • what you want to happen to your body after you die, i.e., burial, cremation, funeral service instructions, etc.;
  • who you want to care for your children;
  • who you want to be your personal representative, executor, and/or trustee (if there is a trust) after you die;

There is no magic language (except as set forth below) or formal need for a lawyer to draft an enforceable will in Florida. 

However, if you do not use a lawyer, you will likely find that you have done more harm than good. 

And, a cheap lawyer is just that, cheap.  Good lawyers are in high demand and cost money.  Generally, better lawyers charge more and worse lawyers charge less for their services.  

My recommendation is to use a reasonably priced lawyer for your needs.  We can help direct you to a lawyer who will do a good job at a reasonable price if you need recommendations.  

There is one critical defect that often makes wills unenforceable in Florida. 

For a will to be enforceable in Florida, it must be witnessed by two people who see you sign your will.  If you do not have two witnesses who see you sign, the will is not enforceable, and the courts will throw it out.  

Living Wills

A living will set forth your wishes regarding healthcare while you are alive.  This is a legal document.  

In a living will, you can express your wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures or the withholding of care.  This includes the provision of food and water if you are terminally ill.  

Among the issues addressed in a living will include certain medical care desires based upon religious beliefs.  

You can and should also designate a healthcare surrogate.  You authorize this person to make all your medical decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.  

Most hospitals, healthcare providers, nursing homes, and hospice companies have forms of living wills they can give to you.  There is no need to hire a lawyer.  But please be careful to make sure that you sign your living will in the presence of two witnesses, at least one of whom is neither your spouse nor a blood relative.  

Ethical Wills  

An ethical will is a personal document and does not have legal importance.  

Your ethical will is created to communicate your values, experiences, and life lessons to your family after you have passed.  

Living wills are also known as legacy letters. 

Appropriate topics for a living will include life lessons, values, blessings, hopes for the future, apologies to those you have hurt, and gratitude to those you need to thank.  

Ethical wills can be in many different forms.  They can be written, a recording of your voice and words, or even a video.  There is no single formula.  

If you would like advice on preparing a living will, simply Google the topic, and you will be directed to scores of websites that provide free ethical will resources.  

Mark Sunshine

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