People spend a lot of time planning for big events in their life, from weddings to holidays. Sadly, they often overlook one of the most important of all – Florida estate planning.
Florida estate planning is about ensuring your family is protected financially after your death and securing a smooth transition of assets and finances. It’s your chance to make sure your vision and plans are followed through, even when your time here is up.
Many people don’t apply enough attention to estate planning and make costly mistakes that cause severe family tensions. Here are the top 10 Florida estate planning mistakes to avoid:
DIY Florida Estate Planning
With the internet full of DIY estate planning programs and websites, it is tempting to think you can go ahead and do it all yourself. Sadly, reality isn’t so kind to these techniques. No family has the same circumstances or relationships, so this cookie-cutter approach is often a route to disaster.
Instead, it’s highly advised that you speak to a Florida estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process, fine-tuning every aspect to benefit your family.
They’ll help you avoid any of the mistakes listed in this blog and more. They’ll also be available after your death to ensure your Will and other documents are adhered to.
Not Having an Estate Plan in Place
Surprisingly, there are a lot of individuals who do not have an estate plan in place. Therefore, at their death the court will decide how the estate is to be distributed.
To illustrate, let’s assume an individual has two (2) biological children and two (2) stepchildren. His intention has always been to leave his estate to the four (4) children in equal shares, however since there is not an estate plan in place, at his death, Florida law requires his estate to be distributed to only his biological children. In this case, the two (2) stepchildren would not be entitled to a dime. Similarly, a poorly crafted estate plan may result in the application of the same Florida state laws and probate process indicated above. As you can see, it is critical to have a proper plan in place to assure your wishes are carried out.
This is particularly true for families with minor children. Without a Will, the court won’t be able to follow your wishes and your children’s future could be decided by a judge. The cost of setting up a Will is far, far less than dying without one.
Nobody wants Florida state laws or the court system to determine their family’s future. The solution is to be proactive. By meeting with a Florida estate planning attorney, you can set up a thorough estate plan and Will that fits your vision and isn’t susceptible to costly mistakes.
Not Thinking About Long Term Care or Disability
End-of-life care is often neglected because people don’t want to accept the prospect of needing it. But studies show, 52% of those over 65 will need long-term care services before the end of their life.
Eldercare can be expensive, with nursing homes costing around $100,000 a year. Senior home care services aren’t cheap either.
That considered, no Florida estate planning is complete without factoring in disability or long-term care. You need to think about having the right amount of short-term and long-term insurance and after retirement, think about how and when you’ll fund your care.
You should also ensure that accidents or illnesses are thought out. How would you be supported and how would that affect your family? Every year prices go up, so the sooner you plan this, the better.
The decisions you make in your Florida estate planning can have significant tax implications, leaving certain assets to become unintended income for your heirs. There are various wealth and estate taxes that you need to be aware of.
Only making an estate plan or a simple will often leaves families in the dark about taxes. But your Florida estate planning attorney will make you aware of any new taxes as you plan to ensure your family gets the best outcome.
Not Updating Your Plan Over Time
Many people think Florida estate planning is a one-time job. While most of the work is set from the start, it must be updated over time. Major life events happen and goals shift. From new asset acquisitions to family births, deaths and marriages, there is a lot that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Public policy also changes over the years. If, for example, your Will and Trust were set up years ago, then state and federal law changes may now result in a different outcome for your family.
The solution is to revisit your Florida estate plan any time your family, the state or the Government experiences a big change. With the help of a Florida estate planning attorney, you can ensure you keep everything up to date. For these reasons, it is recommended to have your estate plan reviewed a minimum of once every three years.
Incorrect Ownership of Assets
Asset ownership mistakes are common. First off, many people fail to own property jointly as spouses. Although this can be beneficial, it most often fails to create creditor protections and slows down property transfer after a death.
Incorrect ownership of assets can also include foolish mistakes such as having a business owner title business property under their own name or putting retirement accounts into a trust (when the intention is to keep them outside the trust). Keep in mind that a designated beneficiary on an asset (for example, a life insurance policy) will take priority over any provision in your estate plan. It is strongly recommended to review your asset ownership and beneficiary designations annually.
These are just a few of the various ways people make simple mistakes that cause significant problems later on for their heirs.
Failing to Plan for Minor Children or Beneficiaries
Never underestimate the importance of ensuring your children are cared for in Florida estate planning. Many people create estate plans with the long-term in mind but overlook what would happen if they died while their kids are still young.
From having a designated guardian to clear instructions on how money should support minors, you should never make these mistakes.
Failure To Appoint The Right People To Right Positions
It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people appoint a less than ideal choice as the personal representative for the estate. Appointing the hothead of the family can cause all sorts of drama later on for the rest of the family. From litigation to family tensions, ensure you appoint someone you can trust. If you ever run into a situation where you’re no longer comfortable with the personal representative previously designated, make sure to speak to an estate planning attorney immediately.
Assuming Everyone Will Get Along
Similarly, don’t make the mistake of placing trust in family relationships. After a death, emotions can be high and with assets and money on the table, conflicts can arise. By making a thorough estate plan, you can ensure that every aspect of your vision is followed. This way, you’ll avoid conflicts and the prospect of probate court determining outcomes.
Not Having Document Witnessed or Notarized
The last thing you want is to have your Will disqualified by not having your document executed correctly. To properly set up your estate plan, two (2) witnesses and a notary are required. Many of the DIY online systems leave out these important details, leaving you in a difficult position later down the line. For example, if a Will was not notarized, you will have to track down at least one (1) of the witnesses who signed the Will. To avoid these pitfalls, ensure you use a Florida estate planning attorney, so your documents get true notarization and witness documentation.
Hire an Estate Planning Attorney in St Petersburg and Riverview, FL
If you’re interested in protecting your future generations from losing assets, cash and time with a mistake-free estate plan, then contact a St Petersburg estate planning attorney today.
With over 60 years in helping the St Petersburg community and new offices in Riverview, FL, as a client of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., you’re in safe hands.
Contact us today for a free consultation.