Estate planning is not only for the wealthy, it is important for everyone who is concerned about where their assets will end up upon their demise. If your estate is small, you may simply focus on who will receive your assets after your death, and who should manage your estate, pay your last debts and handle the distribution of your assets. If your estate is large, your lawyer will also discuss various ways of preserving your assets for your beneficiaries and of reducing or postponing the amount of estate tax which otherwise might be payable after your death. Wouldn’t you like to have the peace of mind of knowing your spouse, home, life savings and family, as well as your legacy, are protected?
While it is not a pleasant task, estate planning is necessary to effectively and efficiently transfer your assets to your heirs. Proper planning can help those to whom you are leaving assets avoid paying high federal income taxes and estate taxes. In addition, suitable preparation helps avoid confusion and emotional distress for those you love. It also avoids the expense in time and money that the formal probate process involves and can be resolved ahead of time through the use of living trusts and other legal strategies.
Especially with people living longer, it is also very important to plan for what happens to you and your spouse if you live. Strategizing your plans today will ensure that your spouse, home, hard earned savings and family are well protected for the future. If you postpone the allocation of your estate until you or your spouse become incapacitated, you run the risk that your intended beneficiaries will not receive what you would want them to, but instead be handed over to the nursing home, taxes, and professional fees that could consume most of your assets.
If you fail to plan ahead, a judge will simply appoint someone to handle your assets and personal care and your assets will be distributed to your heirs according to a set of rules known as intestate succession. Contrary to popular myth, everything does not automatically go to the state if you die without a will. Your relatives, no matter how remote, and in some cases the relatives of your spouse, will have priority in inheritance ahead of the state. Still, they may not be your choice of beneficiaries; therefore an estate plan gives you much greater control over who will inherit your assets after your death.
Estate Planning Lawyer
To an attorney, proper estate planning involves first, minimizing the tax consequences of transferring a person’s property under state and federal gift and estate tax laws; and secondly, accurately drafting, within the proper documents, provisions for taking care of the decedent’s loved ones. These two goals may sound simple; however, proper estate planning is a very complex area of the law. Additionally, proper estate planning involves an attorney’s analysis of each client’s individual situation. In many cases, the client will need suitable planning to provide for guardians to care for minor children and perhaps aging parents or other relatives, as well as corresponding trustees for any trust established for the care and support of these individuals.
It is an emotional time when someone passes away. Such a time can be exacerbated when the loved ones of the deceased cannot find important documents, keys to safety deposit boxes, financial statements and other necessary information. It is essential to create a list of where all important information can be located and give the list to someone you trust and to keep extra copies of your important papers in a fire-proof box. Your lawyer should also have copies of all your pertinent documents.
Whether you have children or not, own properties in more than one state, own a business or wish to leave a fraction of your properties to a charity or to somebody else outside your immediate family; the more reason you need to seek an estate planning lawyer. As your family situation changes over the course of your lifetime, you may need to change the names of beneficiaries not only in your will but in life insurance policies and other documents that list beneficiaries.
Your estate planning attorney can also compose these important documents:
Many people today are drawing up living wills. These stipulate medical and health care instructions to be carried out should you be on a life support system. This is a statement regarding your desires about the use of extraordinary measures or means to extend your life should there be no assurance that your consciousness will be regained. A power of attorney must be named in conjunction with a living will.
Power of Attorney
This is a notarized, revocable document allows another individual to handle your financial dealings or a wider range of affairs. There are three types of power of attorney:
- (1) a Durable Power Of Attorney that remains in effect during incompetence or other disability;
- (2) a Standby Power of Attorney that is triggered when there is an incapacity to manage affairs; and
- (3) a Temporary Power of Attorney that generally applies only if an emergency arises.
By asking your estate planning lawyer to make a draft of the power of attorney, you can avoid delay, disappointments, and the expensive conservatorship process the moment you become incapacitated. In such process, a judge would appoint a conservator who is not known by the family.
Last Will and Testament
This is the document that allows you to hand down all your assets to particular persons and/or entities, assign guardians for your minor children, as well as prevent children and your assets from being dispersed among the default beneficiaries of the state.
Health Care Surrogate
With Health Care Surrogate, you can appoint an adult who will make medical decisions for you once you become incapacitated in the future. This document authorizes a certain individual to decide if you need life sustaining measures.
Proper estate planning provides peace of mind as well as financial security. In most states, attorneys specialize in this area of the law and are often provided with specialized certificates (i.e., Board certification) in the area of estate planning. As you can see, it is important to have a plan in place so that the fate of your assets, small business and most importantly your loved ones is directed by you and not decided upon by strangers.
About The Author
David Di Pietro is the founding partner of Di Pietro Partners a law firm with a wide variety of practice areas including probate, estate planning, and more. David Di Pietro is also a former prosecutor and handles all probate and estate litigation matters. The law firm of Di Pietro Partners, LLP is located at 901 E Las Olas Blvd suite 202, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. If you have further questions related to estate planning and/or probate in Florida, call our offices today. (954) 712-3070
The information in this article site was developed by Di Pietro Law, P.A. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The transmission and receipt of information from this article does not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship with Di Pietro Law, P.A. Persons receiving the information from this article should not act upon the information provided without seeking professional legal counsel.