Legacy & Estate Planning
Estate planning is a process involving the counsel of professional advisors who are familiar with your goals and concerns, your assets and how they are owned, and your family structure. It can involve the services of a variety of professionals, including your lawyer, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker and broker.
Estate planning covers the transfer of property at death as well as a variety of other personal matters and may or may not involve tax planning. The core document most often associated with this process is your will.
Sadly, many families don’t do proper estate planning because they don’t believe that they have “a lot of assets” or otherwise believe that their kids can just come in and divide their assets by themselves. If you don’t make proper legal arrangements for the management of your assets and affairs after your passing, the state’s intestacy laws will take over upon your death or incapacity. This often results in the wrong people getting your assets as well as higher estate taxes.
If you pass away without establishing an estate plan, your estate would undergo probate, a public, court-supervised proceeding. Probate can be expensive and tie up the assets of the deceased for a prolonged period before beneficiaries can receive them. Even worse, your failure to outline your intentions through proper estate planning can tear apart your family as each person maneuvers to be appointed with the authority to manage your affairs. Further, it is not unusual for bitter family feuds to ensue over modest sums of money or a family heirloom.
Your estate is simply everything that you own, anywhere in the world, including:
- Your home or any other real estate that you own
- Any interests you may have in any business
- Your share of any joint accounts
- The full value of your retirement accounts
- Any life insurance policies that you own
- Any property owned by a trust, over which you have a significant control
Probate is the legal process of the administration of your Estate after your death. Probate is done in court.
In general Yes. Having a Will does not avoid probate but avoids your final estate from being distributed “Intestate” which means according to the distribution rules provided by Florida Statutes. If you have a valid Will then the probate court will distribute your assets according to how you direct in your Will.
Whether or not your estate must be probated depends on what assets you own and how they are titled. One way to avoid probate is to utilize a Revocable Trust also known as a Living Trust. However, even without a Living Trust, it is possible with careful Estate Planning to completely avoid probate. Our Estate Planning Attorneys can determine if your estate can be structured in such a way to completely avoid Probate.
A Living Trust or sometimes called a Revocable Trust is a legal relationship between three parties, the Settlor, the Trustee, and the Beneficiary. In a Living Trust the Settlor transfers legal title to some or all of his or her property to the Trustee who holds, manages and disburses the trust property and its income for the benefit of the Beneficiary. The Trustee is governed by terms of the Trust Agreement which is drafted by the Settlor.
A Living Trust has the following benefits:
A Living Trust enables your loved ones to manage and disburse your assets for your benefit when you are unable.
A Living Trust may enable you to reduce or eliminate Federal Estate Taxes.
A Living Trust may enable you to avoid Probate for your estate after you pass on.
A Living Trust is able to address the special needs of family members who may have physical or mental disabilities or other personal issues which interfere with their ability to manage their own financial affairs.