Nearly everyone has an estate or some type of asset(s). The estate may include things like your home, car(s), vacation home, savings and checking accounts, investments, pension, furniture, jewelry, life insurance, personal possessions, etc. The one sure fact of life is that no matter how much your estate is worth, you will not be able to take any of it with you when you pass from this life. But you can ensure it goes to the people or organizations you want it to. Estate planning in Florida is essential.
So, what happens to your estate when you die? Of course, if you have a will, things will take place according to your wishes. If, however, you do not have a will, that leaves the door wide open for probate. Estate planning, though, is not just all about wills. What happens if you become unable to advocate for yourself while still alive? Who will have a say in your treatment or whether you go to a nursing home if you become disabled or injured? What happens if you have young children who are now left without a parent? Who will be in charge of them?
To ensure that your loved ones are taken care of as you wish and also to guide your own treatment, it is important to start estate planning in Florida. Estate planning helps make plans for your future and the future of your loved ones. You name the organization or people you want to be the recipients of your estate after you die and how you will be looked after in case you become permanently disabled. By taking proactive steps, you make it easier for your wishes to be carried out. In general, the following should be considered in estate planning:
- Provide instructions for your personal care and management of financial affairs in the case that you become disabled or incapacitated before you die.
- If you have become disabled due to illness or injury, apply for disability income insurance to replace your standard income. Long-term care insurance will pay for your care in case of a severe injury or prolonged illness. In addition, you can name recipients for your life insurance if you die.
- If you own a business, make provisions for the transfer of your business in case you become disabled, or incapacitated.
- Name a guardian for your minor children’s inheritance and care.
- Make provisions for any family member with special needs without having him or her disqualified from any state or federal benefit.
- Make provisions for any young member of the family who may be mentally ill or not responsible with money.
- Take steps to decrease court costs, and minimize taxes and unnecessary legal fees, which may induce creating a living trust and updating any of your beneficiary designations.
- Create a power of attorney which will delegate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or die.
- Make healthcare directives in case you suddenly become ill or incapacitated. For example, you may have been seriously injured in an accident and may not want to prolong your life by being placed indefinitely on a ventilator.
- Spell out everything in detail for your beneficiaries and the court system so that nothing will be left to chance.
It is important to understand that estate planning in Florida is not a “one-time-only” practice. It is a continuing process whereby you should constantly review the provisions you have made concerning your family and financial situation over time because things can change.
Is Estate Planning Only For Seniors?
Estate planning is not only for seniors, it’s for everyone. Life is unpredictable and no one can predict how long they will live or when they will become injured or disabled. Accidents, injuries, and illnesses occur all the time to people of all ages. The answer is that by being proactive, you can control what will happen to you and your estate in the future.
Is Estate Planning Only For The Wealthy?
No, estate planning is not only for the rich but for anyone who has assets. Sure, more affluent people who have accumulated wealth need to plan ahead of time if they want to preserve their estate. But today, most people own a home, several cars, have bank accounts, etc. And if they do not plan ahead, then the government will be in charge of the distribution of the assets. When the government gets involved, there are all sorts of fees that can be associated with the process. In general, proactive estate planning is more beneficial for all individuals and families with any type of assets because if there is no estate planning, you may lose a significant portion of the assets, or worse, the estate may go to people who you never intended to leave anything to.
Why Do People Not Consider Estate Planning?
Way too often, many people put off estate planning for the following reasons:
- Some think that they are too young
- Others think they do not have enough assets
- Others think that the process will be too expensive
- Many have no idea how to start the process
In the majority of cases, estate planning is only started when the individual is very ill or disabled or close to death, and the family worries about losing the estate.
Florida Has An Estate Plan For Everyone
In almost every case where the individual has not made estate planning and something happens, such as the occurrence of a disability, major illness, or death, it is the state that will make decisions for you. Florida laws are in place to collect and eventually distribute your estate to your beneficiaries, even though, perhaps, in some cases, you may not have wanted any of these individuals to be recipients of your estate.
If you become incapacitated, the court will take over and control your assets for your care through guardianship. Not only is this an expensive and time-consuming ordeal, it can very difficult to end this process even if you fully recover.
Florida Intestacy Laws
If you die without a will and have no beneficiary designations, your assets will be distributed according to Florida intestacy laws through court-supervised probate. Florida intestacy laws (Florida Statute 732.101-.109) state that if there are no surviving children the spouse will get everything. The order of the line of succession to inherit a decedent’s estate is: spouse, children, grandchildren (depending on a few factors), parent(s), and then any siblings of the decedent would divide the estate.
When there is no estate planning in Florida, in most cases, the family usually will have no idea where all the financial records are kept or stored. For example, if you die without a will, no one will have any idea if you have a life insurance policy, savings in a credit union, or investments in a GIC. The search process for facts and documents can be time-consuming and very costly. By planning what will happen with your estate, you make a list and organize all your assets so that the beneficiaries know where to find the documents, etc.
Given all the uncertainties that occur if you have no estate planning in Florida, what do you feel is the preferred way of handling your estate? Of course, you always want to handle these matters yourself instead of your matters being solely handled in a court system. If you have small children, would you prefer not to have a say in who raises them when you have passed from this life?
Estate planning is not an expensive venture, and it will give you peace of mind. Consult with an estate attorney today and get the process started because tomorrow is never promised for anyone. Do not wait. Call Elder Law, P.A. today at 1-561-933-4681. The initial consultation is free.