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Do You Have Will Power?


The foundation for any comprehensive estate plan is a last will and testament. Although a thorough estate plan typically includes documents other than just a will, a will is certainly a good starting point. Understanding what a will is as well as what you can and cannot accomplish by creating and executing a will is essential.

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									   Do You Have
   Will Power?
                  Understand What A Will Is As Well As
                 What You Can and Cannot Accomplish By
                      Creating and Executing A Will

Robert J. Kulas PA             3
                       Robert J. Kulas
A primary part of any estate plan is your last will and testament. Even if you develop a
more complicated plan that relies on trusts to protect and distribute your assets, your
                    will still plays an important part of your plan.

                                 The foundation for any comprehensive estate plan is a last will
                                 and testament. Although a thorough estate plan typically includes
                                 documents other than just a will, a will is certainly a good starting
                                 point. Understanding what a will is as well as what you can and
                                 cannot accomplish by creating and executing a will is essential.

                                 What Is a Last Will and Testament?

                                 A last will and testament is a legal document that directs how your
                                 property is to be disposed of upon your death. State laws
                                 determine what the legal requirements are for the creation and
                                 execution of a will. In Florida, the following requirements must be

                                        You must be 18 years old

                                        You must be of sound mind

                                        The will must be written

                                        The will must be witnessed following a specific legal

                                 The legal formalities for creating and executing a will are very
                                 important which is why it is usually not a good idea to use
                                 boilerplate, or “do-it-yourself”, will forms that could be out of date,
                                 inaccurate, or lacking in the formalities required by law to be valid.

                                 What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

                                 When someone dies without a will, the person is said to have died
                                 intestate. When that happens, the intestate laws of the state of
                                 Florida will determine how estate property is distributed. Only
                                 your legal heirs will receive

       Robert J. Kulas, PA                                       2
                                 property if you die intestate. Friends, charities, and anyone else
                                 not related to you other than a spouse will receive nothing. Even
                                 distant relatives whom you may have been very close to, such as
                                 an aunt or nephew, will likely receive nothing from your estate if
                                 you die intestate.

                                 What Can You Accomplish With a Will?
                                 In theory a will is capable of distributing all of your estate assets;
                                 however, in practice most people include ancillary documents that
                                 are geared toward accomplishing specific goals in their estate
                                 plan. A will allows you to do the following:

                                        Appoint the executor of your estate.
  If you die without leaving            Make specific or general bequests. A specific bequest might
   behind a will, or a court            be “I give my stamp collection to my nephew Bob Smith”
 determines that your will is           while a general bequest might be “I give my entire estate
incomplete or illegal, Florida          in equal shares to my three children”.
has intestate succession laws           Nominate a guardian for minor children in the event that
that will govern who inherits           both parents die before they reach the age of majority.
  your property. These laws
                                        Authorize the sale of estate assets after your death.
   choose different people
 based on their relationship            Determine who bears any tax burden.
to you and who survives you
                                        Create a testamentary trust.
       after your death.
                                 What Cannot Be Done With a Will?
                                 One of the most important areas of estate planning that cannot be
                                 handled through a will is your incapacity plan. If, for any reason,
                                 you become unable to handle your own financial or personal
                                 affairs, you have the legal right to decide ahead of time who will
                                 handle them for you; however, a will cannot accomplish this goal.
                                 Your will only becomes effective upon your death, meaning that
                                 incapacity planning must be done outside your will. Inter

Robert J. Kulas, PA                                                     3
                                               vivos or living trusts must also be created outside of a will. Again,
                                               because your will only takes effect when you die, if you wish a
   Drafting a Will Alone Can Be                trust to become effective prior to then it must be created outside
              Risky                            of your will. While there are numerous other areas of estate
   Learn Why DIY Wills Are Too                 planning that are better handled outside of a will, your incapacity
         Good to Be True                       plan and living trusts are two important areas.

                                               Can You Dispose of Property Any Way You Want
 Download Your Free Report on                  in Your Will?
         Wills Today
                                               For the most part, you may choose to give your property to
Wills that are drafted without the help of a   anyone you want under the terms of your will. There are,
 qualified estate planning attorney have a     however, situations in which the way that property is titled
 higher chance of error. Wills with a lot of   prevents you from giving it away in your will. In Florida, those
errors may be considered invalid in Probate    include:
  court. When a Will is considered invalid,
 the court decides how your assets will be            A homestead if you are survived by a spouse or minor
  distributed, which may cause additional             child. There are some exceptions to this general rule.
     court fees for surviving loved ones,
                                                      A life estate because your legal rights in the property
    petitioning to receive certain things.
                                                      terminate upon your death.
   Dangers of Drafting Your Own Will:                 Certain types of jointly titled property.

    DIY Wills are easier to contest because    In addition, Florida law prevents you from completely disinheriting
     many Do-It-Yourself Wills are hard to     your spouse unless a marital agreement was properly executed. A
    customize to the specific needs of the     spouse has a right to a portion of your estate in Florida. Exactly
     testator, thus leaving vague answers      what your spouse is entitled to depends on a variety of factors, so
                 about the estate              be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney if you need
     Greater risk of having an invalid Will    specific details about spousal rights.
         because a Will isn’t valid until
     witnessed and executed properly in        Changing or Revoking a Will
                   some states
      Drafting your own Will can make it       A validly executed will remains in effect until you change it, revoke
    difficult to remember to update it for     it, or you die. If you need to make a change to your will, you
      certain life changing events such as     cannot simply cross something out or add something new. There
      divorce or the birth of a dependent      are very specific procedures required to make a change in your
                                               will. Creating a new will typically serves to revoke any previously
  Click Here and Download our                  executed
 FREE report, “Dangers of Do-It-
 Yourself Wills and Living Trusts”

  Robert J. Kulas, PA                                                                   4
     Essentially, probate is the process where a deceased person’s property gets
 transferred to new owners. While probate doesn’t cover all property a person leaves
         behind, the probate process is basically the same wherever you live.

                                           wills, or you may explicitly revoke a will if you wish to for any
                                           reason. Common reasons while you may wish to change your will


Register for an upcoming estate planning
seminar or request a private seminar for         Divorce
your group.
                                                 Birth of a child

                                                 Significant change in assets

                                                 Relocation to a new state

                                                 Change in laws

                                           Must a Will Go Through Probate?

                                           Contrary to what many people believe, the existence of a last will
                                           and testament usually decreases the costs involved with probating
                                           an estate. Dying intestate can be expensive because the court
                                           must follow very specific procedures to locate and determine your
                                           legal heirs in addition to all other probate procedures. The more
                                           complete your estate plan is the less room there is for someone to
                                           challenge your plan or argue about what your wishes were.

                                           There are simplified probate procedures for small estates in
                                           Florida that can further minimize costs and shorten the amount of
                                           time it takes to probate an estate. Large, complex estates will
                                           usually need to go through formal probate which can takes
                                           months, even years, to complete. As a general rule though, the
                                           more detailed

   Robert J. Kulas, PA                                                        5
                                             and more complete your estate plan, the less time and expense
       About the Author
                                             will go into probating your estate.

                                             How Do I Know If I Need a Will?

                                             The simple answer to that is that everyone needs a will. Even
                                             people with few assets can benefit from a will. Appointing a
                                             guardian for your children, making sure that your best friend
                                             receives your favorite painting, or ensuring that your son the
                                             lawyer serves as executor of your estate are common reasons why
                                             someone with even a small estate needs to execute a will.
   Robert is the founder and principal
  shareholder in the Port St. Lucie and      The Florida Bar, Do You Have a Will Pamphlet
Vero Beach law offices of Robert J. Kulas,
P.A. Because he believes that helping his    Meredith College, Basic Will Preparation Guide
  clients manage their personal affairs
  wisely is one of the most worthwhile       AVVO, Understanding the Basic of a Last Will and Testament
professional activities he can pursue, he
 has devoted his practice exclusively to
             estate planning.

  He has invested considerable time and
    energy helping to educate others in
estate planning and is widely regarded as
 a dynamic speaker who can make even
the most complex estate planning issues
 easy to grasp. He provides free monthly
   seminars to inform the public on the
  importance of proper estate planning.
Over the past fifteen years, thousands of
   people have come to hear him speak.
     “Helping people understand their
     options for estate planning is very
 important to me,” Robert said. “I like to
 think that people in our community can
     look to me for the kind of quality
information they need to decide what is
     best for them and their families.”

 Robert J. Kulas, PA                                                            6

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