Do’s and Don’ts for Your Disposition of Property by Will

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The Last Will and Testament is the core of most estate plans. How you write your Will can affect who receives your property and how easy it is for your personal representative and the Florida probate court to honor your wishes. Here are some tips for disposition of property with your Florida Last Will and Testament.

Disposition of Property by Will: How Does it Work?

A Florida Will can be simple or complex. It can be a stand alone document, or part of a broader estate plan. However, every Will does two things:

  • Names your personal representative (formerly known as an executor)
  • Disposes of property

Ideally, a properly executed Will should address all property owned in the deceased’s name at the time of their death. It is your personal representative’s responsibility to follow your Will to the letter after satisfying your creditors and paying your final expenses. Anything not included in the Will is instead distributed to the deceased’s closest blood relatives according to Florida intestacy law.

Do Be Specific in Disposing of Ancestral Property by Will

Sometimes it’s okay to speak generally when discussing the disposition of property in your Will (such as dividing your bank accounts between your children). However, when it comes to heirlooms and other ancestral property, the more specific you are, the better. These items often have a great deal of sentimental value. Who receives them can be a matter of family pride. Carefully describe each piece of property and include the full name and relationship of the intended recipient. For example,

“The grandfather clock in the upstairs hall goes to my nephew, George Smith, Jr..”

This disposition of property can be included in the Will itself, or in a separate tangible personal property list. Some families add specificity by putting numbered stickers on each heirloom that correspond to the disposition of the object in their Will, so it is clear which item is which. This is especially helpful with collections of similar items. You can also create a tangible property list which includes pictures of the items.

Don’t Accidentally Exclude Future Heirs

Your Will is written at a specific point in time, but your family can change in the future. Births, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and deaths can all affect who receives your assets after you pass away. If you mean for your disposition of property to be divided among a class of people, like your children, nieces and nephews, or siblings, be sure to include the class as well as the individuals. This will prevent a child born or adopted later from being left out of the Will.

Do Consider Probate-Avoidance Strategies in Addition to Your Will

The Florida probate process can be time consuming and expensive. Often, your estate plan can simplify that process by moving property out of your probate estate. Non-probated property passes directly to joint owners, designated beneficiaries, or trust beneficiaries upon your death without the need of court oversight.

Don’t Forget Alternate Beneficiaries

Just as heirs can be born after you write your Will, your beneficiaries can also die before you do. Generally, the descendents of these “pre-deceased” beneficiaries will receive the assets distributed to their parent or grandparent under your Will. However, if you leave property to someone who is child-free, or if there is no one left in that family line, it can result in property going to someone you don’t expect. Each disposition of property in your Last Will and Testament should include an alternate beneficiary or two, to account for unexpected developments in the future.

Do Include Digital Assets and Cryptocurrency Accounts

More and more, Florida residents are accumulating substantial online assets:

  • Email accounts
  • Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox cloud storage
  • Social media accounts
  • iCloud photos
  • Cryptocurrency and digital wallets

If you don’t include your digital assets and cryptocurrency accounts in your estate plan, they could disappear into the ether when you pass away. In addition to including the disposition of digital assets in your Will, you will also need to document your passwords, arrange for legacy access through the various hosting services, and provide authorizations and instructions for the use of your personal crypto key. If you don’t, your personal representative could have trouble accessing your accounts, distributing crypto assets, and downloading important family memories.

Don’t DIY: Work With an Experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney

There are many websites out there encouraging users to download forms and create their Last Will and Testament themselves. Those Wills are often valid, if properly witnessed and signed, but they don’t necessarily account for the problems that can arise in the disposition of property years or decades in the future. They are also not customized to your family and situation.

At Harrison Estate Law, we know how to write a Will that will properly dispose of your property and accounts for digital assets and anticipates the unexpected. Our experienced estate planning attorneys will be happy to meet with you to review your heirs and your assets, and draft a Will and estate plan to protect your legacy and provide for your family for years to come. Please contact us online or via email or call 352-559-9828 to schedule a free consultation. If you don’t live close to Gainesville or are practicing social distancing, we are happy to set up a phone or zoom call.