David Howard Goldberg, P.L.

Miami Estate Planning Blog

Trusts are an important component of an estate plan

Florida has a large population of older Americans, which should come as a surprise to no one. As they enjoy their golden years in the sunshine state, spending a little time considering the status of their estate plans could be time well spent. A plan does not need to be complex to be effective but there are some basic documents a person should be familiar with in order to be able to formulate a plan to meet his or her needs. These documents include wills, trusts, power of attorney designations and medical directives.

While a will is the document that everyone thinks of in connection with estate planning, the others can further help to ensure that one's final wishes are carried out as intended. A durable power of attorney is one of the most important. It allows the designation of one person who can be responsible for one's legal and financial affairs in the event that a person becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. A medical proxy or health care directive also assists in the event of incapacitation as it authorizes a person to make medical decisions regarding a person's care in accordance with that person's wishes.

Trusts are versatile estate planning tools

It is not unusual for Florida residents to postpone doing important things, such as changing the oil in their cars or getting a regular medical checkup. Another important task many put off is creating an estate plan. One reason for the delay is that they do not understand the importance or benefits of an estate plan, especially revocable trusts. While wills are easy to make, trusts can be essential for those who have particular goals in mind for their plans.

Anyone who has lost a loved one may remember the long, frustrating probate process that kept them from obtaining the assets they were meant to inherit. Trusts are helpful for avoiding that process, keeping the contents of one's estate private and saving the cost of probate. In addition, a trust can be a useful tool for minimizing the tax ramifications one's heirs may face after receiving an inheritance. Since the trust essentially owns the assets funded to it, the tax burden on those assets is reduced.

Choosing a guardian involves practical and personal matters

Parents creating estate plans have many difficult choices to make. Perhaps the most challenging is choosing someone to be the guardian of their children in the tragic event of the death of the parents. For some, it is too difficult to think about, and they put it off, which could leave the courts to make the choice should the unthinkable occur. For those taking the bold step of selecting a guardian, there are a number of factors to consider.

A parent considering the perfect guardian for his or her children must keep practical matters in mind. For example, choosing someone who lives far away may require the children to leave their schools and everything familiar to move in with the guardian. On the other hand, it may be unreasonable to expect the guardian to leave his or her life behind and move to a new home in Florida. Even if the potential guardian lives nearby, parents must weigh his or her age, financial stability and other obligations.

Wills are important but state laws differ

A will is a legal document that describes the maker's wishes for how to distribute any assets after death. A will can also include other instructions that may guide one's family in making critical decisions for the departed. Without wills, many families find themselves in conflict with one another as they struggle to determine the best way to handle the estate.

Writing a will does not have to be a difficult task, but it does require that the writer, or testator, must follow the laws of the state in which he or she lives. For example, if someone moves to Florida after creating a will in another state, that person would be wise to check with a Florida attorney to ensure the will meets the terms of the law. Otherwise, the courts in this state may not accept the will as valid. Generally, though, if the will is valid in the jurisdiction where it was executed, it will be deemed valid in Florida even if it does not technically meet Florida requirements.

Estate planning tools to help with sibling rivalry

Having kids can bring great joy to any Florida resident's life. Of course, siblings do not always get along, and in many cases, parents can find themselves at their wits' end as they try to find ways to make everyone happy. You may have tried to do this for the entirety of your children's lives, but even now as adults, they continue to squabble.

Because of this tendency for conflict, you may have concerns about what will happen to your remaining estate after your passing. Though you will not be around to witness it, you nonetheless do not want your children to fight over your assets. Fortunately, you can make your estate plan work for you and find ways to lessen the chances of them fighting.

Trust administration can be more complex than many expect

An important part of a complete estate plan is a revocable living trust. Property in a trust may bypass probate, allowing for distribution of a Florida estate's assets much quicker than if the deceased had only a will or no plan at all. However, this implies that the trustmaker, or grantor, correctly prepared and appropriately funded the trust as well as following other important steps. It is still possible that trust administration can take as long as probate.

One factor in determining how long it will take to settle a trust is the successor trustee, the person who takes over the trust after the grantor dies. This person may live far away from the estate, or the grantor may have named numerous successors who all have different opinions about administering the trust. It is also possible that the named trustee will refuse the role, especially if the grantor did not discuss the matter with him or her previously.

Trusts can have more flexibility than some people think

Life commonly has unexpected elements, and it can be difficult to plan ahead knowing that anything is possible. Still, it is important that Florida residents try to account for their end-of-life wishes through estate planning. Fortunately, when individuals use trusts, they have options for accounting for the possibility of the unexpected.

First, it is important to appoint a trustee to a trust. This person will manage the trust and ensure that any instructions left behind by the decedent are followed. The trustmaker could also give the trustee discretion to make decisions regarding the distribution of trust assets as he or she sees fit. Of course, some people may not want to leave the entirety of control up the discretion of the trustee, and it is possible to leave specific details that limit the powers of the trustee.

Executors can prepare for probate ahead of time

Though a person in charge of an individual's remaining affairs typically does not take action until after the person's death, he or she can still prepare ahead of time. Being an executor takes a lot of work and responsibility, and having somewhat of a head start could go a long way when the time comes to step into the role. Florida probate can be a long and trying process, and preparation can be useful.

If a person knows ahead of time that he or she will act as an executor, that individual has the opportunity to prepare. First, it can be helpful to discuss various information with the testator after accepting the role. For instance, executors can benefit from knowing about the person's assets and debts. If the testator keeps an updated record of assets and debts, the executor can stay informed about important changes.

Considering guardianship over a parent

Having concerns over the well-being of a parent is difficult. For some, it could be hard to see their parents in a position of needing someone to take care of them. Still, it is important that someone in a vulnerable state has the proper care and protection, which, in some instances, could mean that a guardianship is necessary.

If Florida residents have concerns for their parents, they may be contemplating the idea of whether seeking guardianship could suit their particular circumstances. It may be important to know that more than one type of guardianship exists. For instance, guardianship of the person is when another individual is put in charge of making decisions about care or livelihood for a person who can no longer do so for him or herself. Guardianship of the property means that the person can no longer make sound decisions regarding money and that another individual has been put in charge of making those decisions.

A will may be for everyone, but it's not for everything

Most adults need a will. The will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. Perhaps you have heard this before, and you recently decided that it is time to create yours.

As you embark on this task, you may receive a plethora of advice from friends and family regarding what to put into your will. What you may not have yet heard is that some things do not belong in your will, especially if one of your estate planning goals is to make the estate administration process easier on your surviving loved ones.

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