It might be possible to work out a plan whereby all of your property will be distributed after your death without the necessity of a will. This is not to say, however, that this is desirable. Other forms of property disposition should supplement rather than replace a carefully drawn will.
By will you may provide for the disposition of all property owned by you in your name alone at the time of your death in any manner you choose (subject to the forced heirship laws of some states that prevent disinheriting a spouse and, in some cases, children). Your will cannot, however, govern the disposition of properties that pass outside your probate estate (such as joint property, life insurance, employee death benefits, etc.) unless they are payable to your estate.
Like trusts, wills can be of various degrees of complexity and can be utilized to achieve the wide range of family and tax objectives. If a will provides for the outright distribution of assets, it is sometimes characterized as a simple will. If the will establishes one or more trusts it is often called a testamentary trust will. Alternatively, the will may leave probate assets to a preexisting inter vivos trust, in which case it is called a pour over will. In either case, the purpose of the trust arrangement (as opposed to outright distribution) is to ensure continued property management and creditor protection for the surviving family members, to provide for charities, and sometimes to minimize taxes.
Wills are signed in the presence of witnesses and certain formalities must be observed. A later amendment to a will is called a codicil and must be signed with the same formalities. In some states, the will may refer to a memorandum disposing of tangible personal property, such as furniture, jewelry, automobiles, etc., which may be changed from time to time without the formalities of a will. In many states, a will that is formally executed with the signatures notarized is deemed to be self proved and may be admitted to probate without testimony of witnesses or other additional proof.
The material presented on the Cahill Law Firm, P.A. website is intended for information purposes only. This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services.
Any unauthorized use of material contained herein is at the user's own risk.
Transmission of the information and material herein is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an agreement to create an attorney-client relationship with Cahill Law Firm, P.A. or any member thereof.
Michael L. Cahill is an attorney and certified public accountant providing estate planning, probate and tax services in the St. Petersburg, Seminole, Largo, Clearwater and Florida gulf beach communities.