It’s never too early to start estate planning. Doing so can protect your family’s wealth, vision and future for generations to come. This Florida estate planning checklist is a great starting point before working with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.
1. Do You Need an Estate Plan?
First up in the Florida estate planning checklist is confirming whether you need an estate plan.
If you’re an adult who isn’t mentally incapacitated, the answer should be yes. But it’s especially important if you have children and assets. Even if you’re a young adult, creating an estate plan is wise.
2. Speak to a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning is far more complicated than just filling out a will form and storing it in the attic. This is your chance to minimize estate taxes, protect your family’s wealth and reduce the strain on your family after your death.
Florida estate planning attorneys know every facet of estate planning law and can use it to your advantage. They’ll be able to suggest estate planning ideas that you are unlikely to ever think of.
The earlier in the process you get legal assistance from a Florida estate planning attorney, the better.
3. Identify Your Goals
Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your estate plan. Take the time to think and write your priorities out.
This may include ensuring your children are cared for, your pets are protected, money is given to charity or if you’d like assets distributed slowly over time.
Once you recognize these goals, your Florida estate planning attorney can begin making a plan that makes these goals a reality, legally and in your best interests.
4. Take Inventory
Before you start deciding who should get what, you need to make a detailed list of every single asset and liability in your name.
This includes property deeds, vehicles, bank accounts, investment holdings, credit cards, insurance policies, pets, student loans and more.
It is also a good opportunity to identify the non-probate assets from those that would pass through probate.
5. Decide Who Will Be Involved
You now need to decide who will be selected as:
- Personal Representatives
Think carefully, as these people will be directly impacted by their inclusions. For example, beneficiaries will receive a share or selection of your assets. While Trustees and Personal Representatives must be responsible, trusted individuals who will make wise, smooth, legal decisions – hot-headed people are often unsuitable for these roles.
You should consider talking to each of these selected individuals to see how they feel about their inclusion. That’s especially true for Trustees, guardians and personal representatives – are they comfortable with the responsibility?
6. Complete the Necessary Estate Planning Documents
An estate plan is nothing but a dream until it’s documented correctly. Now you should work with an estate planning attorney to ensure you complete all the necessary paperwork.
Nobody has the same estate plan and these documents vary depending on your estate planning goals.
Every Florida estate planning checklist should see you consider:
A living will is very different from a last will.
A living will documents your wishes for end-of-life care. In this document, you will provide instructions for medical care, if you are unable to make these decisions yourself – such as if you’re on life support or in a coma.
A last will is what is usually referred to as simply a ‘Will’. This document details your last wishes for asset distribution and what happens to any minors.
Here you should document who should inherit your assets and who will become a guardian of any children.
Many people simply avoid this step because it’s such a dark topic and it can feel like tempting fate. But it’s a very important step to take that can protect your children in the worst-case scenario of your death.
Guardianship appointments will determine who will protect your children, ensuring they’re in safe hands without the uncertainty of protection during a very difficult time.
A revocable trust is a type of trust that allows you to change it in your life as you wish. You can put your assets into the trust’s ownership, helping to avoid probate and ensure they are distributed in line with your vision by a Trustee after your death.
Durable Power of Attorney
You can select a durable power of attorney, who will gain the power to make legal decisions for you if you become incapacitated. This should be someone you trust and you should always discuss the selection with them.
These individuals usually gain power over:
- Business Interests;
- General Powers.
- Health Care;
- Personal Interests;
- Safe Deposit Boxes;
Special Needs Planning
If you have children who need specialized care or if you want someone to receive your inheritance without that affecting their Medicaid benefits, then you should consider creating a Special Needs Trust.
If you are receiving Medicaid or are planning to, then estate planning is crucial. Medicaid can attempt to recover any Medicaid funds through probate assets. But with the help of a Florida estate planning attorney, you may be able to sidestep this legally.
7. Federal Tax Planning
Estate planning gives you the chance to legally navigate the way inheritance taxes affect your family.
There are various strategies to reduce estate taxes. Most commonly, these include the creation of trusts and gifting assets.
You should talk to a Florida estate planning attorney and transfer tax planning attorney to find the best solution for your goals and your family.
8. Make Regular Updates
Estate plans don’t update automatically. As your life changes, your estate plan can quickly become irrelevant and outdated.
Consider updating it annually or with every significant life event. From marriages and divorces to new kids and property, you should ensure your estate plan covers everyone and every asset. These small efforts can make a big difference in your family’s future.
9. Protect Your Estate Plan
Once everything has been reviewed, signed and completed, your final step is to store the paperwork somewhere safe. It should only be accessible by a trusted party. A Florida estate planning attorney can give advice for this.
10. Contact a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
If you’re looking to create an estate plan, set up a Trust or write a Will, then you should contact a Florida Estate Planning attorney. Their expertise and experience will ensure you complete all the important paperwork to protect your family and your wealth.
By completing this Florida estate planning checklist, you’re on the right track.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they can protect your Beneficiary Rights in Florida.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started or to get any questions answered.