The process of estate planning involves taking formal legal action to prepare for incapacitation or death. It means identifying assets and necessary responsibilities and making arrangements for management and distribution of those. Doing this in a way that minimizes tax burdens and ensures your wishes are carried out is one reason why it’s so important to hire an experienced Orlando estate planning attorney.
At The Chidolue Law Firm, we recognize the need for comprehensive, compassionate and responsive representation on estate planning issues.
Some of the estate planning issues we help clients navigate include:
- Wills. Those who die intestate (without a will) have their estate (life insurance plans, property, bank accounts, etc.) handled in accordance with Florida laws of descent and distribution, which will determine who receives rights to your property and by default. A will stipulates ways certain property should be distributed at the time of your death. A will can vary with complexity, depending on the size of the estate, the number of family claimants and tax objectives.
- Children’s emergency plan. Parents with minor children don’t generally anticipate their incapacity or death, but sadly, it happens all too often. By establishing a child’s emergency plan, parents can take numerous steps to ensure their children are protected. These include Designation of Health Care Surrogate, per S. 765.2035, guardianship directives and designation of a trustee for a minor child’s property. If these aren’t spelled out prior to parent’s incapacitation or death, courts will appoint a person(s) to serve in these capacities – and it may not be the same choice you would make.
- Trusts for minors. The Florida Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, codified in Chapter 710 of Florida Statutes, allows adults to create trusts for minor children or grandchildren with relatively small amounts.
- Healthcare powers of attorney. This is also referred to as a health care surrogate designation, and it names another individual or individuals as your representative to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own.
- Financial powers of attorney. Power of attorney is a powerful legal document that presents authority for a person to act in another’s legal capacity. It should be generated by an estate planning attorney who can tailor it to meet your specific needs. Powers can be broad or limited to specific acts.
- Advance health care directives (living wills). A living will spells out your end-of-life preferences. Individuals can specify whether they want to forfeit certain death-delaying procedures. These are outlined in S. 765.101 – F.S. 765.113.
- Establishing a Trust. This includes establishing a trust, outlining duties of the trustee and resolving trust litigation. Although many associate “trust funds” as a vehicle of the wealthy elite, trusts can help protect assets for those in the middle-class income bracket too. Designation of a trustee is important, as is ensuring trust accounting is accurate, per Florida Trust Code, Chapter 736. If a dispute does arise, trust litigation may be necessary.
- Revocable/ Irrevocable living trusts. A revocable trust helps you manage assets during your life and distribute whatever assets remain after your death. You can serve as trustee or appoint someone else (possibly a bank or trust company). A revocable trust can be modified or done away with during your life, assuming you aren’t incapacitated. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or terminated without permission of the beneficiary. The primary reason people opt for an irrevocable trust has to do with tax and estate considerations.
- Trust Funding assistance. Trust funding is the process by which your assets (i.e., investments, bank accounts, real estate) are formally transferred into a trust before you pass away, allowing maximum benefit. Ownership of those assets thereafter belong to the trust. If your assets aren’t properly transferred, they could be subject to probate.
Although sometimes these discussions are unpleasant or uncomfortable, they are necessary to ensure your wishes are followed and your best interests are protected.
Why Hire an Orlando Estate Planning Lawyer?
The American Bar Association reports 55 percent of Americans die without any will or estate plan.
This has largely to do with a pervasive yet erroneous concept that Florida estate planning assistance is only needed if the client is wealthy or of retirement age. Here’s the reality: You almost certainly have an estate. Almost everyone does, and it includes everything you own (home, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, furniture, investments, vehicle, personal possessions, etc.).
Even a modest estate will still need to be managed if one is incapacitated or deceased. Finding the best estate planning attorney to help with this process will make sure you have control over that process, ease the burden on your loved ones and minimize the amount lost to debts, taxes and court costs. You also get a say on directives for your health care if you’re unable to speak for yourself and ensure your family’s needs are met.
It’s also important to note: Estate planning is not a one-time done deal. It should be an ongoing process, with plans reviewed and updated as one’s family, financial situations and state laws evolve throughout one’s lifetime. These services are an investment in your personal and financial well-being and future, as well as that of your family.
Some of these processes, such as trust planning, all but require an attorney. There are simply too many complex legal considerations to attempt it on your own. Even a seemingly minor oversight could have serious implications. In other cases, a do-it-yourself will or financial power of attorney may be a slight improvement over nothing, especially if it’s unlikely anyone is going to challenge or contest the directives. But most people underestimate the odds of contention among family members or business partners. They also oversimplify the process. An estate planning lawyer can help you identify what services you need based on the circumstances and offer opinions on streamlined strategy and favorable resolutions.
Contact the Florida estate planning attorneys at The Chidolue Law Firm, serving Orlando and Lake Mary, by calling (407) 995-6567 or email us.