Estate Planning

What is an estate plan? Why do I need one?

In short, an Estate Plan is a process where we use legal strategies to achieve your plans and goals. We, as your counsel, use legal documents to memorialize that plan.

Typically, there are a few aspects we cover for you to:

1.- Provide for yourself and your loved ones through any period of disability or at death;
  • Leave what you have to whom you want in the way you want;
  • Minimize taxes and avoid unnecessary attorney fees and court costs;
  • Care for yourself and your loved ones;
2.- Share your hopes, fears, dreams, values, and aspirations with your loved ones when you are gone; and support the valued causes.
Most importantly:
3.- Leave a Legacy
  • Who you are, what matters to your loved ones
  • Your story, financial tips for your loved ones and beyond.
These should include planning for BOTH: lifetime and at-death component. Why? Simply put, we are all at some risk of incapacity, at which point, we do not want to burden our loved ones, and we do want to make sure that our wishes are executed.
Most clients believe that a simple will is enough, and while it can be, it might also be too simple to accomplish your goals. A will addresses death concerns only, it does not avoid probate and it does not provide any sort of privacy.  Many do not even really understand what a probate process is.  Probate is the name given to the judicial process our loved ones have to go through after we pass. This is a process that is not private, in fact it turns your will into a public document. Many try to avoid probate at all costs, our judiciary system itself is adversary and therefore opening a probate opens the door to litigation. Of course, litigation can become expensive fast. However, beyond these issues, a will is only effective at death, it will not protect you after incapacity during your life.
Because a will leaves the door open to many issues, many opt to prepare a Trust. We tend to associate trusts with very wealthy people but the reality is that we should all use them.
A trust has three main parties: the Trustmaker, the Trustee (who manages the trust), and the Beneficiaries. More often than not, the Trustmaker is all three of these parties until they pass away, then leaving subsequent beneficiaries.
Besides avoiding probate and being effective immediately, a very important benefit to the trust is that it will allow the Trustmaker to give the Trustee instructions on how to handle the trust.
In order to protect yourself and your loved ones it is necessary to go through the uncomfortable thoughts of planning for incapacity, disability and/or death. Working with an effective, innovative and dedicated Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to prepare your estate planning documents is necessary to ensure protection of your assets and legacy.
There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan. Each person is unique in their estate planning goals and needs. Therefore, each estate plan is unique and based on your assets, family size, marital status, intended beneficiaries, and your special circumstances.

WILLS

  • Disposition at death
  • Does not plan for incapacity
  • Personal Representative must be approved/appointed by court in order to act
  • Will must be “proved” in probate court
  • Will becomes public record
  • Estate Administration/Probate under court oversight
  • Validity is highly state-specific
  • More prone to contests due to public and legal notice requirement
  • Property in multiple states means multiple probate proceedings
  • Probate is time-consuming, which may delay distributions

TRUSTS

  • Disposition
  • Trust Agreement sets forth instructions for incapacity of settlor
  • Successor Trustee takes over at death (or incapacity) without court involvement
  • Trust agreement is a contract that speaks for itself
  • Trust remains private
  • Administration occurs privately between trustee and beneficiaries
  • Validity is not as state-specific; governing law of trust prevails
  • Less prone to contests; can only be initiated by disgruntled heir/beneficiary
  • No probate necessary if properly funded
  • Little to no delays in making distributions to beneficiaries