Use our FREE Florida Estate Planning Checklist to make Estate Planning simple and learn EXACTLY what you need to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Free Florida Estate Planning Checklist
No matter how old you are, creating an estate plan is important. It ensures that your last wishes are carried out in the manner you designed, and that your property and assets are distributed to the people you want to have them.
This will not happen without a plan in place.
If you don’t have a last will and testament devised to execute your wishes, a judge will decide. This happens through probate, which is a court proceeding designed to distribute your property under Florida Intestacy Rules.
Florida intestate law is a series of guidelines that direct the state on how to distribute property that has not been devised by a will. These matters are often contested, which is the reason why probate is seen as something to avoid. Probate proceedings are costly, take a long time to be resolved, and are a matter of public record. They also tend to create rifts among family members because everyone ends up fighting over what was left.
All of these issues can easily be avoided with just a few legal documents prepared in advance.
What if I’m only in my 20s or 30s?
You don’t need to have a lot of money or even assets to have an estate plan. An estate plan is more than just directives on property distribution. It also gives direction on how you want family members to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
Many people believe estate plans are only for those who have a lot of money. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If there are specific actions you want people to take if you are unable to care for yourself or placed on life support, having an estate plan saves your loved ones the heartache of making the decision themselves.
You might be thinking that you have all the time in the world to write a Will, but what happens if a car accident renders you incapacitated at 35?
Think about this: you get into a car accident and suddenly you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Who is going to take care of you? What if multiple family members have different ideas on how to handle your care?
What if there are specific family members that you don’t want to make these decisions?
Without a will, the decision becomes up to a judge. A judge will decide who will be in charge of you, your healthcare, your assets, and everything else about your life. This is what is known as guardianship and conservatorship. Guardianship is when someone is legally appointed to make day-to-day decisions on your care; conservatorship refers to someone who has the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf.
Even if your estate enters probate and is uncontested, it can still be a costly and time-consuming ordeal your family will have to deal with while they are already dealing with your loss or injury.
Going through the process may seem daunting at first, but with the help of our Florida Estate Planning Checklist, the process is straightforward — and afterwards you’ll have peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
Florida Estate Planning Checklist
Our Florida estate planning checklist consists of three parts.
The first part consists of questions you need to ask yourself.
The second part lists what information you need to gather.
The third part outlines what documents you will need to create with an attorney to make sure your estate plan is executed exactly how you want.
Step One: Answer Questions
- Who will take care of your children? If you have children, this can be the most difficult thing to think about, but it’s important to make these decisions as soon as possible to avoid custody disputes. You don’t want your children being placed in foster care or with a family member you do not want in charge of their care. Without an estate plan, this can be a very real possibility.
- Who will manage your finances if you are incapacitated? This person needs to be someone you trust, who will make smart decisions with your money, and act in your best interest if you are unable to care for yourself.
- Who will make healthcare decisions and manage your care if you are incapacitated? This can be the same person that manages your finances or someone else entirely.
- What decisions do you want to be made if you are incapacitated? What do you want to happen if you were ever in a coma? How long would you want to remain on life support? An advance healthcare directive allows you to make these decisions now, so your loved ones don’t have to struggle with the decision themselves.
- What are your life insurance requirements? Life insurance is more than the cost of a funeral. Shared assets (think mortgage, credit cards, bank accounts) become the sole responsibility of whoever else is a joint holder on the account. Your life insurance should be sufficient enough to clear any outstanding debts.
- Who will be your beneficiaries? This is perhaps the most common question when creating an estate plan. There are still bigger considerations, like how to mitigate taxes and asset transfer, that you’ll need to think through with an attorney.
- How do you want your property and assets distributed? This can be simple or complex, depending upon the size of your estate, the amount of assets you own and the number of beneficiaries named in your will.
- Who do you want to be responsible for making sure everything is carried out? What instructions will you give this person? How and when will they receive them? An attorney can help you think through these questions if you are unsure.
Step Two: Gather Information
In order to create a solid Florida estate plan, you’ll need to itemize all of your assets and property. Everything you own can be added to your Will — from high value assets, to photographs and keepsakes. There are some exceptions though. You cannot include any property for which a beneficiary has already been named. You also cannot include any property that is owned equally by two parties, such as a house that you own equally with your spouse, since the property will automatically transfer to the surviving owner.
Transfer of business ownership upon death is separate and is typically outlined in the operating agreement between partners. For situations like this, it’s important to speak with an attorney.
At this stage, you will need to itemize the following:
- Real estate holdings. List the street address and estimated value of each property you own. It’s also smart to gather deeds, mortgage documentation and any other documents that prove ownership.
- Bank accounts and investments. Include the name of the institution, account number and balance for each account you own.
- Vehicles and watercrafts. Any car, truck, RV, boat or motorcycle you own should be listed. Include the license plate number and VIN for each vehicle, along with any documentation that names you as the owner.
- Personal items. All high value personal items that you own (like artwork, antiques, or jewelry) should be included, along with the estimated value of each item. Personal items of sentimental value can also be included.
- Debts owed to you. Any debts owed to you should also be included here with contact information of the debtor, the amount they owe, and any related loan documents.
Step Three: Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney
The last step (and the most important) is structuring your last wishes into the legal documents needed to execute your will.
There are many different vehicles that can be used to create your estate plan. A competent Florida estate planning attorney will be able to walk you through what your unique situation requires.
Your Florida estate plan should include:
- Last Will and Testament and possibly a trust
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Advance Healthcare Directive (Living Will and Designation of Health Care Surrogate)
- Pre-need Guardian Designation
This is a basic outline. There are also a number of vehicles that can be created in order to make transfer of assets easier.
For example, Trusts can be used to avoid probate, make asset transfers easier and outline how funds or assets should be distributed at the time of your death.
Review Your Florida Estate Planning Checklist
Do you have questions about the best way to structure your will? Want to learn how to mitigate estate tax? Are you aware of the potential landmines of “gifting” assets to minors without a Trust?
We can answer these questions and more. If you want to protect your loved ones, your estate, and your last wishes — we can help.
Give us a call or fill out the form to get started.