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Boca Raton Estate Planning Law Blog

Discussing estate plans with family

Florida residents may find it necessary to discuss with their family members the estate plan that they have in place and why certain decisions were made. This can be difficult for people who are uncomfortable speaking about personal financial matters, like retirement or spending habits. However, discussions about such matters can be conducted in ways that make it easier for everyone.

Before doing so, individuals should consider what is important to them. Often when people have conversations with their families about money, they are, in part, discussing their values. These values can be a focus point of their discussions.

What you need to know about living wills in Florida

Few people feel enthusiastic about the prospect of detailed discussion of medical decisions to be made should they become incapacitated. Nevertheless, advance directives in Florida can help you convey your wishes and lighten the decision-making burden on your loved ones, freeing them from nerve-wracking guesses at the best thing to do.

A living will numbers among the various kinds of advance directive that can help you plan your care. Speaking with an estate planning attorney can help you understand the best options for your situation and goals.

The benefits of trusts over a simple will for unmarried partners

If your estate plan involves leaving everything to a loved one who is not a spouse when you die, you could be lowering the value of your assets significantly through estate tax. According to Kiplinger.com, when Philip Seymour Hoffman made this mistake in his will, he cost his family about $12 million in estate taxes

Although marriage would ensure that estate taxes would not hit your spouse in most cases, you do not have to take this drastic step in order to avoid the heavy penalties. Instead, you could create one or more trusts to protect your loved ones from losing the inheritance you provide.

Top (Avoidable) Causes of Estate Disputes

Lawsuits are rarely pretty, but fights over inheritance can turn out to be especially vicious, protracted and wasteful. Estate disputes can tear families apart and consume a large part or even the entirety of the estate's assets.

Many disputes arise because the deceased failed to make appropriate provisions. Luckily, advance planning that includes consultation with a knowledgeable attorney can prevent some common sources of discord from ever coming into play.

The difference between traditional and ethical wills

Regardless of your age, health or degree of wealth, creating a will is a critical step in the estate-planning process because it ensures the allocation of your assets in accordance with your wishes. While a traditional last will and testament typically makes determinations about who is going to receive what, another type of will, known as the ethical will, can help you pass along what is non-tangible, such as life lessons, personal beliefs and values.

Sometimes referred to as a spiritual letter or a legacy letter, an ethical will differs broadly from a traditional one. For example, ethical wills are far less regulated.

Choosing your executor

Now that you have figured out how you intend to leave your assets, you have another tough decision to make. Selecting the right executor, also called a personal representative, is important when you want the peace of mind of knowing your wishes will be carried out.

Florida law sets forth only a few basic requirements for executors. You must choose a Florida resident (with some exceptions) over the age of 18 who does not have a felony conviction. This person may also not be subject to a court's judgment of incapacity.

What Happens If You Ignore Estate Planning?

Many Florida residents find it difficult to buckle down and figure out an estate plan. Not only is it psychologically hard to confront the prospect of your own passing, but estate planning can also present some challenges.

Nevertheless, ignoring reality will not make it go away. People who fail to make proper provisions will leave the ones closest to them dealing not just with emotional devastation, but also the challenges of handling intestate succession.

Undue Influence In Florida Estate Planning

Florida residents who set out to plan their estate often focus on coming up with a plan that minimizes estate taxation. However, fewer people take into account another major source of potential depletion: probate litigation.

Heirs may contest both wills and trusts when they are not happy with the disposition. In many cases, claimants may allege that the will's or trust's provisions stem from undue influence by a beneficiary rather than from the testator's own free will.

Responsibilities when a loved one is incapacitated

When a loved one in Florida gives someone power of attorney or names that person as successor trustee to a revocable trust, that person may not fully understand what is expected of him or her in that role. If the loved one dies suddenly, the duties may be limited. However, if the loved one becomes incapacitated, the person appointed trustee or given power of attorney may be faced with a great deal of responsibility.

Someone who is a successor trustee or has financial power of attorney will be responsible for paying the bills, signing checks and managing the accounts of the incapacitated loved one. He or she can even sell property, if necessary. If one has only power of attorney, those duties end when the loved one dies. With a living trust, the trustee continues to manage the trust after the loved one's death.

A pour-over will can fund a revocable trust after probate

When people in Florida make the commendable decision to plan their estates, they may be overwhelmed by the choices and details to consider. In many cases, their primary goals are to ensure their assets are distributed appropriately, to minimize taxes on their estate and to avoid probate. Establishing a revocable trust can accomplish these goals as long as all of the grantor's assets are funded into the trust. Too often, a grantor neglects to review his or her documents, resulting in the omission of valuable assets from the trust.

To ensure that all assets are distributed according to the wishes expressed in the trust, many grantors include a pour-over will in their estate plans. A pour-over will simply names the trust as the beneficiary of any assets not funded into the trust. Of course, this excludes assets that already have beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies.

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