Securing Your Family’s Financial Future
Estate Planning is the process of creating a plan for healthcare and financial decision-making when you are alive, and a plan for what will happen to your assets and property when you pass away. If you are an adult, you need to consult with an attorney about what Estate Planning documents you need. Yes, EVERY adult needs some documents. Even adults who do not own anything need to have healthcare documents that determine who will step in to make their healthcare decisions if they are unable to. If you are an adult that owns assets/property and/or has a child, even more reason to have an Estate Plan.
You’ve worked hard during your lifetime which is why a comprehensive estate plan is vital to your family.
Countless hours at work. Late nights and weekends. You toiled away to be able to provide for yourself and your family. And along the way, you start at the point something aside for your future. Something to retire upon. And wouldn’t it be nice if you had something left to distribute to your loved ones when you’re gone?
You are healthy now. But it’s just common sense that someday you’re going to need somebody else to make decisions for you. Potentially decisions regarding your finances. Or even your health such as major medical decisions.
The thing is when that day comes it will be too late for you to make your wishes known.
Proper estate planning is all about making sure your wishes come true in the distant future. It’s important to seek advice from an estate planning attorney.
It’s about making sure that your lifetime of hard work will benefit you down the road and your loved ones after that. It’s about making sure a guardian is named for your children if they are still young. It’s about directing your loved ones to make the decisions that you would want to have made when you can’t make them for yourself. It’s about selecting the right people to make sure that everything gets done for you when the day comes that you can’t do it for yourself.
The Dangers of Failing to Plan
According to the AARP, only 60% of people over the age of 50 even have basic wills.
Only 45% of people have durable powers of attorney, 30% have health care directives, and only 23% of these people have living trusts.
In other words, the vast majority of people don’t even have the very basic and minimum estate planning documents that they need to plan for the future.
The benefits of a proper plan are numerous. For example, you may be able to minimize or avoid probate entirely with the proper plan.
Through basic planning, married couples can reduce or even eliminate estate taxes by setting up a be trusts as part of their wills or revocable living trusts.
Perhaps most importantly, you can avoid a mess down the road. Choosing someone to be in charge in case you become mentally incapacitated for example can spell out exactly what happens if and when that day comes. Being clear and concise with an estate plan can also minimize the chances of family fights and costly probate court proceedings. Even the best people sometimes get funny when it comes to money. A proper estate planning plan can go a long way to promote family harmony later on.
Minimum Requirements of a Comprehensive Estate Plan
At a minimum a comprehensive estate plan will answer the following questions:
- How am I going to distribute my assets when I’m gone?
- How can I minimize expenses and taxes, including probate, income, and estate taxes, when I’m gone?
- How can I make sure that the transfer of my state goes as quickly and as timely as possible?
- When I die do I have sufficient assets or insurance to make sure that expenses get paid?
- Who do I want to settle my affairs and distribute my assets after I’m gone?
- If I become disabled who do I want to manage my assets and finances?
- Who do I want to make health care decisions for me if I am mentally incapacitated?
- What do I want to direct the doctors in the case if they need to resuscitate me?
- If I become disabled how do I pay for nursing home or long-term care? How do I make sure that the nursing home doesn’t eat up all of my estates?
Selecting the Right People: The Fiduciaries
One of the most important decisions that you’ll make with your estate planning is what people do you want to make decisions for you and to make sure that your wishes get administered after you’re gone. We often call these fiduciaries. In the case of a will, they are called personal representatives.
You’ll want to have some successor fiduciaries in case the original one is not up to the task or is no longer alive.
You’re going to want to appoint somebody who’s loyal, a good person, and has a good sense of money.
Your comprehensive estate plan will likely include some or all of the following legal documents:
- a will
- but trust, also known as a revocable living trust
- a durable power of attorney
- in a revocable life insurance trust
- a premarital agreement or marital settlement agreement
- a special needs trust
- I health care surrogate
- an advanced directive or living will
You’ll also need to examine the different asset accounts that you have to make sure that there titled in the appropriate way.
What are some of the common estate planning documents?
When we assist a client with their Estate Plan, generally we discuss and create the documents below:
Revocable Living Trust and/or Last Will & Testament:
Depending on your age, income, assets/property, and family situation, you will need one of these documents or both. These documents outline what you want to occur with your assets/property at the time of your death. Your Last Will & Testament will also state who you want to be appointed as guardian of your minor children. If you have a Trust, you will also always have a Last Will & Testament. Trusts can be joint (created by more than one (1) individual. Will’s are individual and exclusive to each individual.
The most frequent question that we receive in regards to these documents is….”Why do I need either of these if I do not own anything and have no children.” There is always something you own! Even if it is a bank account or personal property such as the contents of your home, or jewelry. In addition, people generally add assets/property as time goes on. These documents will help you plan for your present situation and future vision. If you do not indicate how you want your assets/property to be distributed, you will die intestate (without a Will) and the courts will decide for you.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate:
Every adult should have this document. It is the document that indicates who will step in and make your health care decisions if you cannot or do not want to make your own decisions. This document can be used in an emergency situation, during a surgical procedure, and/or for care during an illness.
Every adult should have this document. It is the document that states your wishes and determines who will step in and effectuate your wishes in regards to being kept alive when on life support. Most individuals choose not to be kept alive artificially by machines.
Durable Power of Attorney
This allows someone to step in and make your financial decisions for you when you want or need them to. Many spouses have this document handy in case it one not available to be present during a financial transaction. Many elderly individuals need this document to allow a loved one or trusted individual to assist them with paying bills and dealing with their finances and real property.
Designation of Preneed Guardian:
This designates who you wish to be the guardian of your person or property if you are deemed incompetent or are unable to make your own decisions. This document can help prevent a guardianship proceeding. This document is generally requested by many elderly individuals.
What information will I need to provide?
In order to assist with an Estate Plan, we will inquire about a client’s assets/property and approximate values. We will not need specific statements. We will also ask a client for names, addresses, and phone numbers of individuals that will be included in their Trust/Will and who will make financial and/or healthcare decisions. This can be accomplished in person, via phone, pr via electronic communication.
Do I have to use an attorney for my estate planning documents?
Even if you already have Estate Planning documents, it is a good idea to have an attorney review them periodically to ensure no changes need to be made. We attempt to draft documents where minimal changes, if any, will be necessary. However, there are many events that will require changes to your documents such as moving to another state, a change in employment, a marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a spouse, and more. We suggest that an attorney review your documents every few years….more frequently if you have experienced a life-changing event.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Estate planning can provide multiple benefits for you and your loved ones later in life or after your passing. Estate Planning can also aid in limiting tax consequences for you and your beneficiaries. Although there is no Estate Tax in the State of Florida and the Federal Estate Tax threshold is very high ($11.58 million dollars), a good Estate Plan minimizes the other fees your Estate will have to pay and taxes your beneficiaries will have to pay based on the proceeds they receive.
Most individuals strive to develop an Estate Plan where there will be limited court intervention, fees, and costs. Developing an Estate Plan can also assist in preparing for various other scenarios that most people do not think of. Some of these scenarios include but are not limited to: Care for your pet(s), gifting special items to specific individuals, donations to charitable organizations, control of funds designated to individuals for a specific length of time, and more.
Plan Today for a Happier Tomorrow
Contact experienced estate planning attorneys who can help you plan and have the peace of mind that you deserve!
We have offices located throughout Tampa Bay including in Pinellas and Pasco County.