When it comes to estate planning, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions. One is that you do not need a Florida estate plan. Another is that a basic last will and testament is the only estate planning document you need. Although this is also untrue, many people believe a Florida will can avoid probate. In this blog, let us address the latter.
A last will and testament can do many things to protect you and those you love most. It is the foundation to many Florida estate plans. In simple terms, it is a legal document that facilitates the transfer of your assets to those you designate at the time of your passing. It can also allow you to protect your young children by naming a guardian to look after them if something happens to you and your spouse. Further, through this estate planning document you can name a personal representative to ensure that the instructions in your will are carried out.
If you do not have a current, valid will when you die, your estate could be subject to being handled under the state of Florida’s intestacy laws. The intestacy laws outline who should inherit your estate at the time of your passing when you have not made provisions for what you truly want to happen with your legacy. In other words, without estate planning in place, you may have little say in what happens to your property after you die.
Whether you have a will or do not, your estate may need to be handled by the Florida probate court. Explained in the most basic terms, probate is the legal method used to distribute your assets and pay your creditors after you die. It is conducted through the courts and, unfortunately, can be costly and time-consuming. For these reasons, as well as other considerations, most people would prefer to avoid probate.
Further, there are privacy concerns. Since probate is conducted through the courts, any associated documents become a matter of public record. Therefore, anyone can access them and learn the details of your estate.
There are ways to avoid probate in Florida. These include distribution of wealth during your lifetime and joint ownership of property. Other options include creating a trust agreement designed to reach your goals. Your estate planning attorney will work with you to establish the estate plan that will best meet your needs. Remember, that deciding who should inherit from you is only one part of the process. You also need to use lifetime estate planning documents to ensure that you are protected by giving legal authority to decision makers who can act for you should you be unable to or become incapacitated.
Which of these options is best for you? Are any of them viable based on your current circumstances? To find out, simply call our law firm to schedule a consultation whenever you feel ready. We are always happy to help you plan forward.