The start of a new year is often a time for making resolutions. Creating an estate plan is one such resolution Floridians may consider. The general consensus is that being proactive with estate-related matters could minimize potential issues among heirs and even protect certain assets from estate taxes.

The first step with estate planning is the preparation of a last will and testament, which is recommended for anyone 18 and older. A will allows an individual to dictate who gets what assets and appoint guardians for children. Without a will, such decisions will be based on state laws or made by a judge.

A power of attorney is an estate planning tool that can go into effect when someone is still alive. It works by naming a trusted individual to make necessary financial decisions in the event of incapacitation. With a health care proxy, medical wishes can be predetermined and executed by an appointed agent. This type of document typically goes into effect when the estate owner is suffering from a terminal illness with no chance of survival.

Estate planners may also consider getting a life insurance policy, which is meant to provide funds surviving family members may need. It’s also wise to think about long-term care and disability insurance. These are designed to help cover at-home or nursing home care.

When it comes to drafting estate planning documents, an attorney can provide the necessary assistance once initial plans have been made. For individuals wishing to explore their options, a lawyer is often able to make recommendations based on factors such as available assets, goals, preferences with distribution and anticipated health care and financial needs. Legal assistance can also come in handy should a client wish to make adjustments to existing estate documents.