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Every adult should have an estate plan, especially if they have children or strong desires about what happens to their assets when they die. The best way to draft an estate plan is to reach out for help from a skilled The Villages estate planning attorney. While estate planning may seem overwhelming at first, by working with an attorney, you can be assured that you are protecting your assets and loved ones with their help and your efforts.
Estate Planning Tools
Various estate planning tools exist to help you accomplish your goals and wishes regarding your assets both now and upon your death. Understanding these tools and how they can work for you is the first step in estate planning. A seasoned The Villages estate planning attorney can help you understand them and use them to your advantage.
A will is a legal document, best created by an attorney, that details how, when, and to whom your assets will be distributed when you die. Wills don’t have to be complicated, but they should take into consideration several factors. Your will should:
- Detail who will get your assets, including specific bequests
- Name a legal guardian for any minor children you have
- Name your executor or personal representative who will handle and administer your estate when you die
- Identify which assets will pass immediately to heirs and which will pass into trusts or other accounts to be distributed at a later date
- Highlight any charities or organizations you would like your assets to benefit upon your passing
To accomplish specific or multifaceted financial goals, you may also want to use a trust in conjunction with your will. A trust is an arrangement that manages asset distribution, whether the asset is property or cash. For example, an asset can be transferred to a trust, which it then “owns” for the benefit of or eventual distribution to a pre-named beneficiary. You can establish and transfer assets to a trust while you are still alive, or through your will (known as a testamentary trust) after you die.
Using various kinds of trusts, you can:
- Transfer property to your heirs privately, avoiding the expense and potential delays of probate.
- Give continuous, regular income to a spouse, minor child, an elderly parent, or someone with special needs.
- Decrease estate taxes
- Benefit your favorite charities
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the authority to make decisions on your behalf. Financial powers of attorney can manage your assets and make financial decisions on your behalf. They determine who will manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.
On the other hand, a healthcare power of attorney makes decisions for your healthcare and treatment if you cannot.
Sometimes referred to as an advanced directive, a living will explains your desired medical treatment if you become incapacitated. It can also guide your family and healthcare providers in fulfilling your desires if you are unable to express them. For example, suppose you don’t want to be placed on a life support machine or have cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In that case, that should be detailed in your living will.
Life insurance works like no other estate planning tool, providing an immediate income source and tax-free cash. Your loved ones can use this money to preserve their lifestyle, pay taxes (without the need to liquidate your assets), and follow through with your estate distribution wishes.
Frequently Asked Questions from our Clients
What Happens if You Die and Don’t Have a Will?
Suppose you die without having executed a will. In that case, your state’s laws regarding asset descent and distribution will determine who gets your property. This is known as dying intestate. These laws vary from one state to the next, but asset distribution usually goes to your spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or children, then it goes to other family members.
Florida’s laws reflect the legislature’s natural assumption as to how most deceased individuals would dispose of their estates given a choice. It also puts in place protections for certain beneficiaries, especially minor children. That plan may or may not reflect your exact desires, and some of the built-in protections may not be needed in a harmonious family setting.
However, by completing your own will, you can intercept and alter the state’s default plan to suit your personal desires. Florida law also allows you to have control over many personal decisions that broad and general state default provisions fail to address.
Should You Hire an Estate Planning Attorney in The Villages to Help Draft a Will?
No matter the extent and complexity of your assets, meeting with an experienced The Villages estate planning lawyer is always in your best interest for several reasons. An estate planning attorney can explain your various options for dealing with your assets after your death. They can also ensure that in preparing your will, you meet certain basic legal procedural requirements—for instance, ensuring you have two witnesses when you sign the necessary documents for your will.
If you don’t know what estate planning tools are available to you, how to use them for your and your beneficiaries’ benefit, and how to ensure they will be upheld in probate court, your estate planning efforts could be in vain. Being fully aware of and understanding your options and obligations will help make your estate planning efforts successful.
Reach Out to a Seasoned The Villages Estate Planning Lawyer Today
At Mickey Keenan, PA, our seasoned The Villages estate planning lawyers are well-versed in all your options. We take the time to explain the various estate planning tools you can use, including their benefits and drawbacks. Our priority is to truly understand your desires and wishes for your assets, family members, finances, and healthcare. This way, we can help you select the right estate planning vehicles and draft them in a way that makes the most sense to you and your family members. To learn more about your estate planning options and how we can help, call 813-871-1300 or contact us online today.