Senior Couple Using Laptop for Estate Planning

In last month’s blog, we explored the meaning and significance of estate planning, which is the process of designating who will receive a person’s assets in the event of their death and who will care for a person in the event of their incapacitation. Estate planning is an important task we encourage all of our clients to consider.

A proper estate plan will include multiple documents, which we break into two parts. This blog will dive deeper into Part 2.

  • Part I Planning for Incapacitation

Documents to designate individuals who will make decisions for you while you are alive but unable to make your own decisions.

  • Part II  Planning for Death

Documents that provide instructions on how to distribute your property upon your death.  

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Trust
  • Deeds, beneficiary designations, and other documents that permit you to distribute property upon your death. 

Every legal process is different, and seeking the services of competent estate planning attorneys can simplify the process and save you time and money. The attorneys at McCart & Tesmer practice in the areas of probate, estate planning, and family law. Contact us if you have questions or are ready to have our attorneys work on your legal matter.

Phase 2 Documents

  1. Will

In Florida, a Last Will and Testament is a written document that directs who will receive property and assets upon your death. It also allows you to choose the guardian of a minor child should both parents die while the child is under age 18.

A Last Will and Testament is an essential document for all individuals, even if you have no children and do not own real estate. Without a Last Will and Testament (or another plan, such as a living trust), your estate would be considered “intestate,” which means that the State of Florida dictates how the property will be distributed. Don’t confuse this with the notion that the State of Florida will take all of your property; instead, the State of Florida law dictates the order and hierarchy of how your property is distributed to your relatives, such as spouse, children, parents, which may include relatives you would instead not inherit from you.  

One of the most important decisions you will make for your estate plan is who you choose as the administrator or personal representative of your will. The personal representative, also known as an executor in other states, is the individual or corporation who will carry out the provisions of your Will. This administrator should be someone you trust, who is financially responsible, and willing to serve. We always advise speaking with this individual or corporation before nominating them as Personal Representative or executing your will.

Some questions to answer before you begin drafting your Last Will and Testament:

  • Which trusted adult can and will take care of your minor children?
  • Who do you want to get your property to? 
  • Will your beneficiaries be treated equally?
  • Are there any beneficiaries (or potential beneficiaries) that will be minor or need their money to be managed for some time?
  • Are there charitable organizations you want to support?
  • Are your pets provided for?
  • Do you have everyone’s legal names? 
  • Do you have specific instructions regarding your remains, such as buried or cremated?

Thanks to Florida lawmakers, anyone can write a will on a piece of scratch paper or create one online and have it considered legal and valid in the state. However, these DIY Last Will and Testaments rarely protect the decedent and the beneficiaries in the way the drafter intended. Even if this is your chosen route, we still say It’s best to have an estate planning attorney help you. Call us at 813-498-2757 for a free consultation. 

2. Trusts

The four main types of trusts are living, testamentary, revocable, and irrevocable. However, there are further subcategories with various terms and potential benefits.

  • Testamentary Trust: This type of trust is set up after death according to your Last Will and Testament. Since the terms of a testamentary trust are established in your Will, and you can change the terms at any time up until your death, this trust can be simpler and more flexible than a living trust, but it will require court intervention (i.e., probate) after your death.
  • Revocable or Living Trust: Created while you are still alive to efficiently transfer assets to beneficiaries. A revocable or living trust accomplishes by avoiding probate, the court proceedings for distributing assets after death. Avoiding probate can save time and court fees and potentially reduce estate taxes for beneficiaries. 
  • Irrevocable Trust: Unlike the revocable trust, no one can alter the terms of an irrevocable trust after it is created. The primary purpose of an irrevocable trust is so you can transfer assets out of your taxable estate. Income from the assets transferred into the trust is no longer taxable to the benefactor during their lifetime. The assets are not taxable to the estate upon the benefactor’s death.  

Florida trust laws state that a trust is created only if:

  • The settlor has the capacity to create trust.
  • The settlor indicates an intent to create the trust.
  • The trust has a definite beneficiary or is a charitable trust, a trust for the care of an animal, or a trust for a noncharitable purpose.

One of the main benefits of having a trust is that property contained within the trust does not have to go through probate, instead passing directly to beneficiaries. This c n mean savings of both time and money for your loved ones. 

Our attorneys can help you find the best plan to suit your needs. Give us a call at 813-498-2757 for a free consultation. 

3. Deeds Other Documents That Permit Distribution of Property Upon Death  

One of the main objectives of any comprehensive estate plan is efficiency and allowing your loved ones to start benefiting from your assets with minimal delay or added expense. There are several ways one can achieve this, such as:

  • Joint Ownership of Tangible Property – Joint owners on bank accounts, vehicles, or vehicles using the term “or” between owners. This allows the surviving owner to keep the property after a co-owner passes away.
  • Joint Ownership of Real Property and Deeds – By adding particular language to your deed, you can add a co-owner or beneficiary to your property. To acc plish this, we frequently use the following deed designations:
    • Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship
    • Tenancy by the Entirety (for spouses only)
    • Life Estate Deeds (also known as Lady Bird Deeds) 
  • Beneficiary Designations, Payable on Death, or Transfer on Death  – You can leave property to loved ones if there are beneficiaries. If there is no beneficiary, you may be able to convert the account to a Payable on Death or Transfer of Death account, allowing you to add a beneficiary to the account. This is often utilized at banks and credit unions. 

No two people are alike, and no two estate plans should be either. With the proper documents in place, property ownership will automatically pass to your beneficiaries when you pass. Are your assets secure? Is your family protected? 

If you are considering creating or amending your will, trust, or any of the estate planning documents we’ve covered, McCart & Tesmer can help. Our expert attorneys will ensure you choose the proper documents for your family. Contact us at 813-498-2757 or for a free consultation.  

Recommended Posts