For adults, estate planning is important no matter what stage of your life you are in. You may be young and just starting out. You may be newly married or new parent. You may be well-established in your career or deciding to retire soon or you may already be retired. No matter where you are in life, estate planning will help you secure your future so that if something unexpected happens, you and your loved ones are protected.
At Veliz Katz Law, we help our clients understand the benefits of estate planning so that they may make informed decisions about their estate and their future. We will guide you through the process to make sure the estate planning tools you choose to use are properly executed. Here, we provide an overview of what estate planning may entail. Contact us with your questions and to learn more about how these tools may be applied in your unique situation.
What is Estate Planning in Florida?
Estate planning is a plan you create and update throughout your life stages to protect yourself and your loved ones. Estate planning is a means for you to manage your finances and control how your assets will be distributed upon your death. It is also a way to reduce expenses, frustration, and delays for heirs and to make sure that they receive their share of the estate timely and without contest – if at all possible and if the estate plan was well-developed and properly implemented.
What are the Benefits of Florida Estate Planning?
The benefits of estate planning are many. Here, we provide you with a few of the biggest ones, like:
- avoiding probate;
- providing for minor children;
- providing for the self in case of incapacity;
- planning for taxes; and
- planning for any charitable giving.
If you die intestate (dying without a will), then your property will be divided according to the law. Typically, this means dividing the property between your spouse and descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.). Fifty percent will go to the spouse and the remaining fifty percent will be divided among any children (if there are no children of the deceased or the surviving spouse, the spouse receives 100 percent of the estate minus qualifying creditors). Dying intestate leaves room for a lot of legal ramifications, including in-fighting among heirs and vulnerability to creditors.
If you have minor children, estate planning allows you to address specific issues regarding your children, like how they will be raised (if the other parent is no longer alive or otherwise not in the child's life) in your absence and who will raise them. It also allows you to ensure that they are financially secure, among other things.
Estate planning allows you to prepare for your own future in case you are in an accident or through age and illness become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for and about yourself and your finances. By preparing in advance who will make decisions for you as a power of attorney, you reduce the emotional and economic hardship that would result if a family member had to petition the court to declare you legally incompetent. It also ensures that the person you want to be making these decisions is the person who actually makes the decisions.
Florida does not have a death tax, but there is a federal estate tax. Qualifying Florida estates will be responsible for the federal estate tax. The federal estate tax changes from time to time, so it is important to seek legal counsel to first determine if your estate qualifies and then to ensure you know what the current tax rate is. You will also want to make sure your estate plan is updated with any change in the law.
For some of you, you may want to leave part of your estate to a charitable organization. to make sure it is not contested or that there are no unnecessary delays, an estate plan can incorporate your wishes.
What are the Tools that Can Be Used in Your Estate Plan?
There are many tools that can be used in any given estate planning process. Larger estates will likely implement more tools while smaller estates stick to the basics. Here, we provide an overview of the basics.
You, however, always want to speak to one of us at Veliz Katz Law to ensure you are using the right tools for your specific estate. Keep in mind, too, that as your life changes, your estate plan should be updated to reflect these changes. I
A last will and testament is key to any estate plan. A will allows you to choose how your property will be distributed upon your death. Property in a will passes outside of probate, so your heirs won't have to worry about probate court. A will allows you to designate property and other assets to specific persons – whether family, charity, or another person or entity.
Living wills are an estate planning too often confused with a last will and testament, though they are not the same thing. A living will is a statement a person makes to outline whether or not to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures in the event the person:
- has a terminal condition;
- has an end-stage condition; or
- is in a persistent vegetative state.
The living will must be drafted when the adult is competent.
There are many different trusts that can be devised to benefit you while alive and your heirs upon your death. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement allowing you to control your wealth, protect your legacy, maintain your privacy, and avoid probate.
Living trusts are revocable and allow you to retain control during your life if you are the grantor. Irrevocable trusts keep assets from estate taxes and probate but cannot be altered even if you are still alive. Living trusts become irrevocable upon the grantor's death.
There are many different types of trusts that can be established for different purposes.
A power of attorney (POA) in Florida is governed by Section 709.2101 et seq. of the Florida Statutes and refers to a person designated by you to make decisions about finances, from paying bills to selling a car. You can decide what powers to entrust to the power of attorney. There are different types of powers of attorney based on the powers you assign. For example:
- General power of attorney – this POA has a broad range of powers to conduct most types of financial transactions.
- Limited or special power of attorney – this POA is limited to either a single transaction, a certain period to act as a POA, or a certain type of transaction.
- Durable power of attorney – this POA retains his or her power even when you are not incapacitated.
Health Care Surrogates
A health care surrogate is a document where you designate another person as your representative to make medical decisions when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. In this document, you can specify what you want and do not want medically. This document can be used alone or in conjunction with a living will.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Representing Central Florida
Whether you have an estate plan and want it updated to reflect your stage in life or want to start one so you can begin protecting your assets and your family, we at Veliz Katz Law can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.