Probate and Estate Planning
How Fresh Legal Perspective Can Help You
They say “you can’t take it with you when you die.” Since you can’t take it with you, don’t you want to ensure your assets transfer to the people you love? If you pass away without an estate plan, your property is distributed in accordance with the intestate laws of Florida, which means you and your family will have little to no say in who receives your property. Failure to state where you would like your property to go often leads to family disagreements and can cause unnecessary stress.
Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate by transferring ownership or title of property when someone dies. Probate can be an expensive process depending on the value of the estate, and the process typically lasts between six to twelve months. With an estate plan consisting of professionally drafted documents such as a Trust, probate may be avoided, and you can have peace of mind knowing that your assets will be distributed as you intended without the hassles of dealing with the court system.
A proper estate plan will also include documents that will provide protection for you while you are still living. A Living Will, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Durable Power of Attorney can help prepare your family or friends to take care of your medical problems and finances if you become unable to do so.
While everyone cannot always leave a monetary legacy, everyone does have the power of making the preparations that will make their family’s lives easier during difficult times – a gift that is better than any sum of money. Contact our compassionate and experienced estate planning and probate attorneys to schedule a consultation, so that you can make a difference for your family today.
Last Will and Testament
Since a Will is the most well-known estate planning document, it is the most common way for an individual to express how he or she would like property to be transferred after they pass away. Amongst other benefits, a properly executed Will allows a person to designate beneficiaries for individual items, appoint a guardian for minor children, and give charitable gifts.
The downside is that a Will must go through the probate process, meaning it becomes public record, is monitored by the court system, and the estate is subject to the probate fees set forth in the Florida Statutes. While a Will is helpful, it is not the only way to guide the distribution of one’s assets, and since a Will does not avoid probate costs it often results in costing more than other options in the long run.
There are several types of trusts and each one comes with different protections and liabilities for the Grantor (maker of the trust). Some trusts are used to help avoid taxes, such as the Estate Tax, while others are created simply to avoid probate. The most common form of trust used in estate planning is the Revocable Living Trust.
A Revocable Living Trust often allows the Grantor to retain complete access to property owned by the trust during the Grantor’s lifetime. It also allows the Grantor to implement creative provisions and conditions for beneficiaries upon their death. For example, trusts can hold property until beneficiaries reach a certain age or until a certain condition, such as obtaining a college degree, is met.
When a Revocable Living Trust is utilized properly it can result in the Grantor’s estate avoiding probate entirely. Thus, it may result in substantial savings for the estate. Additionally, since a Revocable Living Trust is distributed through a Trustee of the Grantor’s choice, there is rarely a need for court involvement, which generally results in less stress for the family.
Living Will, Health Care Surrogate, and Power of Attorney
A Living Will, Health Care Surrogate, and Power of Attorney help by allowing you to decide who may make medical and financial decisions on your behalf when necessary. A designation of Health Care Surrogate, allows you to choose who will make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated or unable to express your wishes. A Living Will takes pressure off of your loved ones by allowing you to make the decision in advance as to whether you would like your life to be artificially prolonged should you become terminally ill and require life sustaining medical care.
Executing a Durable Power of Attorney protects you and your family in the event that you become incapacitated, mentally or otherwise, and cannot manage your own finances. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent or agents to act on your behalf for financial matters. The power of attorney allows you to choose exactly which powers you would like your agent to have, such as banking powers and real estate powers. If a Durable Power of Attorney is not executed prior to incapacity, then a family member will likely need to use the court system to obtain a guardianship over the incapacitated party, which requires formal oversight from the legal system and is often a substantial expense.
Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You can prevent the worst case scenarios for your family by implementing a solid and professional estate plan before it’s too late.
Why Get an Estate Plan?
If you are younger or don’t have a lot of assets, you may wonder why having a last will and testament is necessary. Consider these questions:
Who should take care of your minor children if you pass away unexpectedly?
Who should take care of your pet in the event of your death?
Who should receive your prized family heirlooms?
Who would you like to inherit your house?
If you are not married, how can you ensure your significant other receives an inheritance?
If you would like to have a say in the answers to these questions, rather than allowing the Florida Statutes to determine them, it is necessary to have an estate plan in place.
An attorney from Fresh Legal Perspective will meet with you to discuss your needs and assist you in creating an estate plan that meets your specific goals. We offer personal attention and service throughout the process to make everything go as smoothly as possible. We hope you walk out of our office with a full understanding of what will happen to your assets after you pass away and a feeling of comfort with your plan for the future. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact us at 813-448-1042 or email us at [email protected].