The term “estate planning” refers to the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate (e.g. material assets, legal rights/ interests and entitlements to real or personal property, etc.) after death. If you engage in adequate estate planning, you can eliminate the many uncertainties that may arise during the administration of your probate and, of course, maximize the value of your estate by reducing taxes and other expenses.
A number of devises are used in estate planning – wills, trusts, powers of appointment (e.g. you may appoint someone else to choose how to distribute your property after your death) and property ownership (e.g. joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, etc.). As of recent, and especially in South Florida, where many elderly individuals choose to spend the last years of their lives, people are designating health care surrogates or including “living wills” in their estate plans. Thus, they provide instructions for how their “final arrangements” should be made (e.g. health care, funeral, etc.).
Many individuals plan their estates such that after their death, their family/ beneficiaries do not have to probate their estate, which requires the hiring of an attorney and is often a very expensive process. For example, if you want to guarantee that your disabled son/ daughter (or another such person) is well cared for after your death, you can fund a “special needs trust” on his/ her behalf. You can appoint someone as the trustee/ administrator for the trust, or the court will do so after your death, who will be responsible for ensuring that the money you set aside benefits the designated person.
In South Florida, estate planning is perhaps the most practiced area of law, due to the vast number of well-endowed retirees who settle here. As such, the law of estate planning is constantly evolving, and it is essential that you keep up with the latest developments so as to ensure that your family/ beneficiaries are protected and provided for when you are no longer in this world.
If you would like more information about this topic, you may contact me, a Florida Estate Planning Attorney, by email, or call me at (954) 458-8655 and I will be happy to answer your questions. I offer a free initial consultation.