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Melbourne Florida Estate Planning Law Blog

Steps for successful estate planning

Florida residents who have accumulated a lot of assets will want to create an estate plan that can help sustain wealth throughout future generations. While this may be a common goal, in reality, wealth is rarely sustained past the children. However, there are steps that can be taken to safeguard one's estate so that the goals for the assets are achieved.

The first step is to address is how the estate should be divided. Funds can be divided equally, fairly or in an equitable manner. Estate owners generally have a difficult time dividing their assets because each heir may have a different level of capacity for being responsible as well as different talents or prospects for the future.

Estate planning answers important end-of-life questions

Estate planning tools do provide solutions for elderly people who have some significant assets they want to leave to their heirs. However, the idea that end-of-life matters are unique to seniors is a misconception. If you are 18 years old or older, you should have some sort of estate plan.

Why? Even if you are young and broke, you should think about what will happen to you and your assets if a tragedy occurs. Here are some reasons you should start estate planning immediately.

Planning for the funeral

Florida residents have the option of putting funeral instructions into their will. However, there is a chance that the will won't be discovered until after the funeral has taken place. Therefore, those instructions might not be followed despite the fact that they are generally considered to be binding on an executor. These days, it is more common to use a planning declaration document.

This gives an individual the authority to make the arrangements for a funeral. The person who creates the document can make suggestions or give instructions that are narrow or broad in scope. Whoever is authorized to plan the funeral will generally have the ability to make decisions regarding issues that weren't discussed in the in the planning document itself.

Avoiding common pitfalls in estate planning

Estate planning in Florida can be simple or complex depending on the nature of the estate and the needs and goals of the individuals involved. The federal lifetime estate and gift exemption, which was increased in 2018 to $11.18 million, has established a favorable circumstance for those who wish to make transfers of wealth on death or during their lifetimes. In order to get the most out of an estate plan though, there are a few points for people to keep in mind.

The most important estate planning document for most people is a simple will. For those who die intestate, i.e., without leaving a will, the cost to the estate can be significant. State law determines who will inherit the property of a person who dies intestate. Family members are often required to cover the costs of proving they are related to the decedent. Additionally, the state's succession plan may distribute assets in a way that the decedent never would have intended and disputes over property can cause family feuds.

Protecting assets and values in an estate plan

For some people in Florida, estate planning can be part of an overall effort to pass on certain values to children and grandchildren. The estate plan can be the culmination of a lifetime of teaching children to value money for what it can do rather than as an end itself. For example, a person may want to emphasize the importance of charitable giving and supporting one's community. Leaving a portion of an estate to a charity can help illustrate this.

A person may also think about which family members will be beneficiaries. It is not necessary to treat all children equally, particularly if some children have more resources than other. For example, one child might work in a high-paying job while another is a teacher. The parent might leave more money to the child who is a teacher since that child might struggle more to build a retirement account and financial security.

How parents can help their special needs children

Millions of parents in Florida and throughout America have children who have special needs. This may require them to provide care or find ways to obtain the care that their children may need for their entire lives. Parents of special needs children can name a guardian to watch over their kids in the event that they are no longer able to do so. Taking this step can be especially important once a child becomes an adult.

A guardian is named in a will, which means that parents of special needs children should create this document as soon as possible. The will can also dictate that assets go into a special needs trust after a parent passes on. Failure to do so could result in a court ordering that the child be named the beneficiary, which means that he or she no longer has access to government resources.

Who qualifies for Veterans pension?

One of the benefits of having served in the military is being able to receive financial assistance and top-quality health care. The different benefit programs you are eligible for often depend on your service status, along with other factors.

When you get older, you are in more need of these programs to help you with health issues and their high costs. You may be eligible for VA pension to aid you in such medically and economically hard times.

Changes that may be needed in an estate plan

When people move to Florida from another state, this could be one reason to review their estate plan and see if it needs updating based on the difference in state laws. However, there are a number of other reasons to review an estate plan regularly. For example, an estate plan that has been designed to avoid estate taxes may be out of date since the exemption has increased significantly.

As part of an estate plan review, people should make sure that all necessary components are in place. At minimum, there should be a will and paperwork that appoints people to manage healthcare and finances in the event of the person's incapacity. A person might want to consider adding a codicil to the will that addresses distribution of personal effects. The person may also want to consider whether the beneficiaries or what they receive needs to be changed and if the person named as executor is still the right choice. If there is a trust and a friend or family member has been appointed as trustee, it may be worth considering whether this is too much work and responsibility. A professional may be a better choice.

Estate planning can help care for one's family

Many people in Florida may be considering how they can manage their estates to best protect their assets and provide for their loved ones after they pass away. By preparing an estate planning checklist, people can help prevent problems later down the line for their families. Since estate planning involves thinking about death and complicated family relationships, people often put off the task. According to a 2016 survey, over 64 percent of Americans do not currently have a will, which is one of the most basic estate planning documents.

When high-profile figures like Prince, Howard Hughes or Sonny Bono die without a will, it can cause headlines. But when the same circumstance happens to most people, it can just intensify the pain and complications for those left behind. By developing an estate plan, people can handle an array of issues from their medical care if they become incapacitated to how their property is later distributed. When someone doesn't have an advance medical directive or a living will in place, those difficult decisions are often left to family members. Similarly, when individuals pass away without a will, a probate court will handle the distribution of their assets.

Making changes to a revocable trust

Some Florida residents who already have established trusts may have things take place that prompt them to wonder whether or not they can make changes to the trusts. In most cases, people are able to do so if they have established living trusts.

If grantors need to make simple changes to their trusts, they might be able to do so by completing trust amendment forms to include with their trust documents. If there are a large number of changes that need to be made, however, it can be confusing for administrators of the trusts when there are numerous amendment forms.

Consult Our Florida Lawyer for Veterans Aid & Attendance

Feel free to contact us and schedule an initial consultation where we can review your circumstances in an intimate setting and discuss how our Brevard County Elder lawyer can help you. Simply call Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A., locally at 321-426-1848 or toll free at 800-495-9153. We look forward to meeting you.

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