Posts

7 tips for crafting the estate plan you need

It’s important to design an estate plan that allows you to not only protect and build upon what you have, but to also keep others from fighting over assets after you’re gone.  The fundamentals of creating a solid estate plan include:

Get help.  Hiring a Florida estate planning attorney will ensure that your estate plan takes advantage of the ever-changing state and federal laws as well as reduces the potential for family feuds.

Select the appropriate personal representative and trustee.  Family members do not always make the best personal representatives or trustees.  Be sure your choices are those who are both willing and able to carry out the duties of an executor or trustee fairly and properly; if you don’t know anyone who fits this description, you may want to consider a professional fiduciary to handle those duties.

Talk about your estate plan with family.  While it may be difficult for you to discuss your estate plan with family members, informing them of the generalities and the reasons that guided your decisions can help stave off any family feuds.

Educate yourself on state laws.  Estate laws vary by state, which is another good reason to have a Florida estate planning attorney to guide you.  The Florida probate process can be lengthy and arduous; an estate planning attorney can help you and your family avoid probate, saving time and money.

Keep your estate plan updated.  Many life circumstances – remarriage, divorce, new children – impact your estate plan, so be sure you review it annually and keep it updated when things change.

Title your assets correctly.  Ensuring that all your assets are properly titled in a will or trust will help prevent legal challenges.

Build in some flexibility.  As tempting as it may be to “manage from the grave,” it is often better to build some flexibility into your estate plan so that beneficiaries can have some say – for example, on the distribution of personal property.

At The Estate, Trust and Elder Law Firm, P.L. we help our Treasure Coast clients develop and implement comprehensive estate planning strategies personally tailored to their unique situation, needs, and goals.   Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

How an Estate Plan Can Help You Care for Elderly Parents

How Estate Planning Can Help You Care for Elderly ParentsOne of the main motivations for most adults who create a Florida estate plan is to ensure their minor children are taken care of in case they die unexpectedly. However, with more and more adults joining the “sandwich” generation – taking care of kids and aging parents – it also makes sense to consider including parents as estate beneficiaries as well.

If your parents are dependent – even somewhat – on you for financial and/or healthcare assistance, you may want to consider setting up a trust in case they outlive you. Then, when they die, the money in the trust can go to your children.

You will need to appoint a trustee – a sibling or other close relative may be a good choice – and give them the authority through your trust to terminate it once your parents are gone and dispense the rest of the funds to your children.

You can also utilize Florida estate planning tools to help your parents while you are still living, through trusts that leverage the federal gift and estate tax exemptions, through annual exclusion gifts or by paying for their medical expenses (which you will need to pay directly to the provider).

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only four Treasure Coast attorneys who is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Elder Law. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

7 Incentives for Creating a Florida Estate Plan

7 Incentives for Creating a Florida Estate PlanIn many ways, estate planning is a misnomer, as it leads most people to believe it’s all about money and taxes. In reality, estate planning is really about protection – for you and your loved ones.

Regardless of the size of your bank account or your family, there are lots of good reasons to create an estate plan, including the fact that you could be the biggest beneficiary of your advance planning. If you become incapacitated, you will need to have designated someone to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf.

Here are seven reasons why everyone needs an estate plan, including you:

  1. Health care. Defining how your medical needs will be handled in case you are unable to make those decisions for yourself and making a plan for long-term health care is a key benefit in planning your estate.
  2. Avoiding probate. Having an estate plan allows you to avoid probate, saving your family from the expense and hassle of going to court.
  3. Avoiding family feuds. Sentimental items often provoke more family fights than money. Creating an estate plan allows you to designate who will receive family heirlooms, jewelry, art collections and other possessions so there is no question after you pass.
  4. Beneficiary forms. Making sure the right people are listed on beneficiary forms for IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans and annuities ensure those assets pass directly to the beneficiaries in a timely fashion.
  5. Dependents. Ensuring the care of dependents – children, grandchildren, an elderly parent or a special needs family member — can be accomplished by setting up a trust in your estate plan.
  6. Asset management. Naming the right person to manage assets wisely for the benefit of heirs will make sure the assets are not mismanaged and depleted from your estate.
  7. Business succession. If you own a business, you need a succession plan to determine what will happen to the business if something should happen to you.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only four Treasure Coast attorneys who is Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Elder Law. Contact us for your free initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.