Toast to the Jolly Testator

Fountain Pen for drafting a Will

A winning poem of warning on the Dangers of DIY Wills, by a venerable Scot: 

by Lord Neaves

Ye lawyers who live upon litigants’ fees,
And who need a good many to live at your ease,
Grave or gay, wise or witty, whate’er your degree,
Plain stuff or Queen’s Counsel, take counsel of me.
When a festive occasion your spirit unbends,
You should never forget the Profession’s best friends;
So we’ll send round the wine and bright bumper fill,
To the jolly testator who makes his own will.

He premises his wish and his purpose to save
All dispute among friends when he’s laid in the grave;
Then he straightaway proceeds more disputes to create
Than a long summer’s day would give time to relate.
He writes and erases, he blunders and blots,
He produces such puzzles and Gordian knots,
That a lawyer, intending to frame the thing ill,
Couldn’t match the testator who makes his own will.

Beware the Dangers of DIY Wills

I spend a fair amount of my attorney time trying to undo poorly written wills, expired wills, and wills that do the opposite of what the testator was likely aiming to do.  Nearly everyone is better off with no will at all than with a badly written one. 

Self-drawn and robo-wills cause more expense to the estate in the long run, requiring oaths of witnesses, tiresome “petitions to construe” containing case law citations, and court hearings.  The worst of the wills invite litigation – which is not only expensive, but results in years of disharmony and likely long-term acrimony amongst family members.

Few attorneys will admit it, but not everyone needs a will.  (Even fewer would dare suggest you don’t also need a trust.)  KCC PA can review your circumstances and let you know if Florida’s intestacy scheme – which is fair, clear, and in line with the wishes of most would-be testators, will suffice.  

If you do need a will, or you want one, or you’d like to incorporate charitable giving, or a special needs trust, or similar – then KCC PA is happy to ensure it’s both valid and sensible.   

Quick Myths about Intestacy in Florida

It’s a common misconception, but the state DOES NOT automatically get your assets if you die without a will.  Your assets would flow and be divided amongst, in order: your spouse (& or children if not from the latest marriage), your children, possibly their children, your parents, your siblings, and so on.  More on the dreaded “escheat” later…

Though this risks invoking the maxim that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” here’s the actual law on intestate succession in Florida: Chapter 732, Florida Statutes, Part I (sections 732.101-732.111).  

But don’t forget – there are also many non-probate transfer methods, too… that is, no will, and no estate administration.  It all depends on your circumstances, and your goals – KCC PA can help. 

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended as a starting point for discussion, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship with this firm or its attorney. No such relationship can be created without an engagement letter signed by both parties.  Further, this article is not intended as legal advice to any reader. No one should act or fail to act in reliance on this article without seeking professional advice.