If you die without writing a legally valid will (called “dying intestate”), ultimately it will be up to the state of Florida to decide what happens to everything you own, from your car and house to bank accounts and insurance, stocks and your 401(k) and even your email and social media accounts.
Some people like to say that when you die intestate, Florida writes your will for you.
If you choose to create a will, as the Florida Bar Association suggests you should, what can you do with it? What goals should you think about when you sit down to write the first draft?
You could name an executor
Most people who write a will name an executor, also known as a personal representative. Their job is overseeing what happens to your money and possessions, according to your instructions and the law. Florida has a few requirements for who may serve as an executor.
Your executor gathers up all your assets and debts and uses what you have for paying off your debts, including taxes. The executor can then focus on the more personal requests you leave in your will, for example, distributing the remainder according to the wishes you describe.
You can consider creating a trust instead
You can probably arrange for a trust created upon your death (a “testamentary” trust). In your will, you would name a trustee, much as you would name an executor.
The main advantage of a testamentary trust is often that the probate court closely watches over the trustee. In this way, the probate court does not make the decisions in the way it would if you died intestate, but it has a lot of power to see that the trustee follows your wishes.
Following your wishes
Whether you use an executor or a trustee, you also have a wide variety of options for how to handle your assets. If you correctly specify and authorize these decisions, the law and your loved ones should carry out without a problem.