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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.

Another area of estate planning that goes overlooked is incapacity and disability preparedness. Durable powers of attorney and healthcare proxies are documents that appoint agents to act on behalf of a person in the event he or she becomes unable to make financial or medical decisions. If the incapacitated person does not have these documents in his or her estate plan, state law will determine who makes decisions on the person's behalf.

It is also important to revisit an estate plan periodically after it is made. Changes in the law or the structure of the family may necessitate modifications to the plan. An attorney with experience in estate planning matters can often be of assistance in this regard.

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