Though thinking worst-case scenarios and your own mortality aren’t particularly fun topics to think about, the global coronavirus pandemic is making it more important than ever. People who have put off estate planning or wanted to make changes to an existing plan but haven’t executed them need to consider how they want their assets, debts, property, and other wishes to be carried out. Here are some basics about comprehensive estate planning in Florida.
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
Though people may believe they don’t need an estate plan unless they are rich or have many assets to be divided, this could not be more wrong. Even if you are single or childless, it’s still important to create a plan for the future. You probably want to decide what happens to pets, property, minor children, or assets if something should happen. Some people may need a more comprehensive plan than others, but they benefit nearly everybody.
What’s Included in an Estate Plan?
People often believe that estate plans only involve wills that divide assets or pass property to a particular person after your death. However, comprehensive plans may include many include a number of documents you may not realize exist and benefits you can enjoy right now as well. Depending on your needs, your plan may include a:
- Power of attorney
- Directions for guardianship
- Pet care or ownership provisions
- Advance direction, medical power of attorney, or living will
- Transfer upon death accounts or deeds
- Designation of beneficiary(ies) on certain accounts
If you die with no will or trust set up, you are considered to have died intestate. That means Florida’s laws or, in some cases, laws where a property is located or a person lived, will dictate what happens to their estate. Your assets and property will move through the probate process and the state will distribute them account to its laws of succession – meaning you get no say in what happens. It also means your estate information is publicly available for anyone to view.
Wills and Trusts
A will is a legal document stating your wishes for how your property and assets are divided and given out on your death. If you are of sound mind and have two witnesses, you can create a will setting out, among other things:
- Property and asset distribution
- Guardianship of minor children
- Provisions regarding pet care
- Leave instructions regarding payment of debts
- Naming an executor to make sure your wishes are carried out
Trusts are arrangements where you give a trustee title to property or assets to manage on a beneficiary’s behalf – this can involve property management, investing money, or even bill payment. Trusts may be revocable, meaning as long as you are still alive you can change the trust. These are good if you believe your wishes may change and allow the property involved to avoid probate. However, they do not have the same tax advantages as irrevocable trusts. They may also be irrevocable, meaning once you create the trust you have no control over it any longer. These trusts allow the assets in them to avoid probate and remove the assets from a taxable estate (which may reduce your estate tax liability or keep assets from creditors).
Depending on your estate size, tax liabilities, state’s process for probate, and other potential issues, a Florida estate attorney can advise you whether a will suffices to deal with your estate, or if a will and trust may be better for you.
Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Though putting your estate in order to ensure your assets are divided as you wish among family, friends, and charity may be unappealing, current health risks worldwide make it critical you have a plan for how your estate will be handled and decide how to protect your assets from probate as fully as possible. Our experienced estate planning attorneys at The Legacy Law Firm can help explain your options and come up with a plan that ensures your wishes are carried out and your estate is as protected as possible. Contact us today to learn more and get started.