Estate planning is for everyone, not just the wealthy. Individuals who own real property, have liquid assets, own insurance, or support loved ones who are dependent on their assistance should have an estate plan in place, regardless of value or size of the estate, marital status, or age. Estate planning also encompasses much more than the distribution of your net-worth. For example, planning for incapacity ensures that your wishes are carried out regarding decisions about your health care. An estate plan is critical for protecting the interests and future income needs of a spouse and/or minor children, and can cover a range of directives for the appointment of guardians of people and property. When creating your new Florida estate planning documents you need to consider the following:
Last Will & Testament. A Last Will & Testament (Will) allows you to name a Personal Representative who is appointed by the court and charged with overseeing the proper distribution of your estate during probate. A Will leaves your property to whoever you want when you die. If you don’t have a Will, Florida law will decide who gets your property; and it might not go to who you want if you die without a Will. A Will can also give the Personal Representative more authority than they would have to deal with the property under Florida law. If you pass away without a Will, Florida will apply its “laws of intestacy” to determine which individuals will receive which funds or assets.
Revocable Trust. A Revocable Trust (Trust) is an estate planning tool utilized to avoid having your estate pass through the Florida probate process at your death and streamline the wealth-transfer process for your heirs. These Trusts are flexible, allowing you to make changes or amendments up until your death. Along with amending it, you can also name unrelated, out-of-town individuals to act as the trustee (person in charge), something that can't be accomplished with a Will.
A Trust is a private document and your estate will be distributed in private.
A Trust also allows funds to be available immediately after death. The trustee will be able to use the money to pay for estate taxes, administrative expenses and debts.
Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney allows someone else to handle your financial affairs if you are unable to. Many people think that they don’t need a Power of Attorney because their spouse is named as co-owner of bank accounts and is on the deed to the house. But a spouse cannot sign contracts, deeds, tax returns and other documents for you just because they are named as a co-owner on an account. Most people name their spouse on the power of attorney, and name one or more of their children as an alternate.
Health Care Surrogate. A Health Care Surrogate is also known as a Health Care Proxy or Health Care Power of Attorney. A Health Care Surrogate allows someone else to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those medical decisions yourself. This is broader than a Living Will, because you might be unable to make medical decisions, but not necessarily be dying. Most people name their spouse as Health Care Surrogate and then name one or more of their children as an alternate.
Living Will. A Living Will states what you desire to occur when you are dying. Usually, a Living Will sets out your wishes about such things as artificially provided food and water, intensive care, artificial respiration, and whether you want medication to help with pain, even if that medicine hastens your death. A Living Will also says whether or not you want to be resuscitated- brought back- if your heart should stop.
Pre-Need Guardianship Designation. If you become unable to care for yourself, and a court case is brought to protect you, you can name the person who would be responsible for looking after you. If you do not choose a guardian ahead of time, the court would appoint someone.
CHARITABLE PLANNING OPTIONS
Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT). A CRT is an irrevocable trust created by the individual who contributes the property. The trust makes payments to one or more noncharitable beneficiaries for life or for a predetermined number of years. At the termination of the income interest, a qualified charity receives the remaining assets of the trust.
Charitable Lead Trust (CLT). A CLT provides an income to charity over a specified period. At the end of the period, the trust is dissolved and the remaining assets are distributed back to the donor or other named beneficiaries.
Private Foundation. A Private Foundation is a type of charitable organization that is established by an individual, family or corporation to support future charitable activities. The foundation board decides which charities will recive contributions.
The following estate planning articles are designed to explain the process and provide you with information to consider when preparing your documents.
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