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Do you have a last will and testament?

Closeup portrait of elderly woman  in glasses.I’m sure everyone has heard of families who have fought bitterly over the assets left behind when a loved one passes on.  There are arguments over who gets Aunt Bertha’s china, who inherits Grandma’s recipe book, who gets mom’s jewelry or dad’s antique car collection.  When nothing is written down to show your desire on how to divide up your estate, it can cause havoc with your family.  Having a last will and testament prepared can save your loved ones all the disagreements over what you wanted to do with your estate. 

There is a misconception among many people that when you die, your assets will go directly to your next of kin, whether or not you have a will.  This simply is not the case.  The only guarantee that one person will receive something when dividing up an estate would be if there were assets in both names.  The survivor would get the asset in question.  In today’s world family dynamics are a lot more complicated than they used to be.  Not long ago, spouses stayed married until one passed away.  That spouse usually received all the assets of the other. Today, someone may have been married several times, with children from several partners.  If there was no legal directive on how to divide an estate, it’s easy to see how those left behind might start fighting over assets.  And what about the person who has a passionate cause they donate to and want to leave a substantial amount of the estate to that charity?  Without a legal document stating that wish, the charity is likely to get nothing.  Without a legal document and when no next of kin can be located, the estate would most likely default to the state.

Writing your last will and testament isn’t hard, but it needs to be done legally. Just signing a paper with your wishes might not stand up in a probate court if those wishes were contested.  Many state laws differ in regards to what type of will is recognized or how an estate is divided up.  Florida, for example, does not recognize a verbal will.  It’s always a good idea to research the laws of your state before you have a will prepared.  It’s always best to have your last will and testament prepared by a professional.  You want your estate divided up as you wish; not how others want it.

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