Estate planning is a complicated but necessary task. It’s never too early or too late to start planning your estate, but there are several questions you should ask yourself before you get started.
Planning Your Estate in Florida? Ask Yourself These Questions
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is something you can take care of later. If you are in the process of planning your estate, these questions will help you identify everything that is important, so you can prepare your estate planning documents correctly.
1. Who Will Take Care of Your Children?
If you have dependent children, one of the primary concerns when planning your estate is deciding who will care for them in the event of your death. No parent wants to think about leaving young children behind, but planning for this worst-case scenario will prevent future disputes.
Choosing a guardian is not a decision you should take lightly, but it is one that needs to be made. Otherwise, the state will make that decision for you. Without an estate plan, your children may be placed in foster care or with a family member you do not want to care for them.
2. Who Will Manage Your Finances If You are Incapacitated?
If an injury or illness leaves you incapacitated, someone will need to manage your finances on your behalf. When planning your estate, you can appoint an agent under a Durable Power of Attorney to make these financial decisions on your behalf.
The agent you appoint will have the authority to:
- Pay your bills
- Manage your investments
- Make financial decisions
- Sell real estate on your behalf
- File tax returns
Because these decisions will have a direct and significant impact on your financial health and quality of life, your appointed agent should be someone that you trust and will always act with your best interests in mind.
Without a Durable Power of Attorney, a Florida court will appoint a Guardian on your behalf. Typically, court-appointed Guardians are family members, but because you are incapacitated, you will have no control over who is appointed to handle your financial affairs. Appointing a Durable Power of Attorney agent will help you avoid this scenario.
3. Who Will Manage Your Care if You are Incapacitated?
A Durable Power of Attorney agent will also have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, such as:
- Which medications or treatments you do and do not want to receive
- Who has permission to access your medical records
- Whether to admit or discharge you from a hospital
In addition to being responsible and trustworthy, the agent you appoint should also be willing to make medical decisions on your behalf. You can express your wishes for your medical care in writing, but your agent will be the one who will make these decisions if you are incapacitated.
4. What Decisions Do You Want to be Made if You are Incapacitated?
If you are incapacitated, an advanced healthcare directive will outline your instructions and preferences for medical care. A Durable Power of Attorney agent may have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, but advanced directives will guide his or her choices.
Consider your values when determining your wishes and end-of-life care decisions. Some common end-of-life decisions to address include:
- Tube feeding
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR
- Palliative care
- Mechanical ventilation
- Whether you want a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) or “do not intubate” (DNI) order
- Organ and tissue donation
5. How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
A life insurance policy can help cover your debts, funeral costs, attorney fees and other expenses related to your death. Determining how much life insurance you need can be tricky, but it’s an important question to consider.
- Insurance companies recommend choosing a policy that is 6-10 times the amount of your annual salary. When evaluating your insurance needs, consider Income replacement: If you are the sole provider of your family, you will need a policy with a large enough payout to replace your income.
- Your debts: Your insurance policy should also cover all of your debts, including mortgages, credit cards, car loans, personal loans, etc.
- Standard of living: Ideally, your life insurance payout would provide enough money for your family to maintain their current standard of living.
6. Who Will Be Your Beneficiaries?
One of the most important questions to consider when planning your estate is: who will you name as beneficiaries? Beneficiaries can be whoever you want.
This decision is a personal one. You may have close friends who you consider family, but are not legally recognized as your relatives. These individuals may be named as beneficiaries when planning your estate.
7. How Do You Want Your Property and Assets Distributed?
Determining property and asset distribution is one of the most complex aspects of planning an estate. There are a few different approaches you can take:
- Gifting the assets before your death
- Establishing trusts during your lifetime
- Distributing assets through a will
- Distributing assets after death and outside of your will
A will is the only way to ensure that your property and assets are distributed as per your wishes. Trusts can help reduce estate tax and probate fees. Without a will, your property and assets will be distributed as per Florida’s intestate succession laws.
8. Who Do You Want to be Responsible for Making Sure Everything is Carried Out?
When planning your estate, you will need to appoint someone as executor of your estate. The executor will manage all of the affairs related to your estate after your death, including:
- Making all necessary notifications of death
- The probate process
- Submitting your will
- Gathering assets
- Paying your debts
- Handling taxes
- Closing the estate
In the state of Florida, executors may receive reasonable compensation for their work and receive a percentage of the estate’s value. These costs should be considered when naming your executor.
If you have someone in mind for the job, talk to him or her about it first. The job of an executor is a complicated and sometimes stressful one. The person you appoint must be ready and willing to take on these responsibilities if you want to avoid disputes and prolonging the probate process.
Planning Your Estate in Florida
If you want to create an estate plan that ensures all of your last wishes are carried out exactly, the best thing you can do is talk to a Florida estate lawyer. This will ensure that the plan you create protects your estate from probate and carries out your last wishes in the best possible way.