What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan designates who will receive your assets and handle your responsibilities in the event of your incapacitation, or after your death. The goal of an estate plan is to ensure your beneficiaries receive your assets in the most expedient manner—one that minimizes taxes and allows them to receive their inheritance as quickly as possible. Estate planning allows you to create a plan that fits your life now, as well as to fine-tune your estate plan as your personal and financial situations change. If you have a specific way you would want your assets distributed in the event of your death or incapacitation—and, really, who doesn’t—you can definitely benefit from an estate plan.
Whether you have many assets or few assets, you can likely benefit from an estate plan. I can help you with your estate planning needs. My law firm is Groover Law, and I will answer any questions you have regarding estate planning, then comprehensively evaluate your specific situation, providing you with the best options. I will then guide you through the entire process, giving you peace of mind knowing you have a solid estate plan in place and your loved ones are taken care of.
What Are the Most Important Decisions to Consider When Preparing Your Estate Plan?
Ultimately, identifying the people and/or entity your choose to fill the fiduciary roles of each document. These include the following:
- Will – Personal Representative, Guardian
- Trust – Successor Trustee, Trust Protector
- Power of Attorney – Agent
- Designation of Health Care Surrogate – Surrogate
What is the Process?
- Initial Consultation – we all decide that we can work together.
- Data Gathering – this is your homework. Depending on your situation, this may require a little more digging than others.
- Strategy Meeting – we have a conversation so that I can understand your current situation and identify your estate planning goals and objectives.
- Drafting – that’s my homework. I put your wishes to pen and paper.
- Review – I will provide you (and anyone on your financial team that you wish) a copy of the draft documents.
- Revise & Edit – if necessary, I will make any edits, as needed.
- Final Execution – final documents signed.
- Document Binder/Originals – I will provide you with a binder for copies, a water-proof document holder for originals, and a jump drive with electronic copies.
Aren’t Estate Plans Just for the Super-Wealthy?
It is a common misperception that estate planning is only for those with lots of wealth and assets. Because of this, the temptation is to believe that even if you have done well for yourself and your family, you simply don’t have the level of assets necessary to engage in estate planning. Or perhaps you think that unless you are ultra-wealthy, all you need is a will. Nothing could be further from the truth! There are many reasons (detailed below) for having an estate plan—reasons that are equally applicable for those who are super-wealthy and those who are not.
What is Included in an Estate Plan?
The exact documents included in your estate plan will depend on a number of things, including state law, your assets, your age, whether you have minor children, whether you have a special needs child, and many, many other considerations. The basic estate plan documents you may have in your estate plan include, but are not limited to:
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Living Trust
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
- Special Needs Trusts
- Pet Trusts
- Marital Agreement (Prenuptial/Postnuptial)
- Beneficiary Designations of Life Insurance, Retirement Plans or Bank Accounts
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Surrogate
- Living Will
Don’t let this list panic you. You may only need three or four of the documents, and even if you need more, your estate planning attorney will make the process as easy as possible.
How Does an Estate Plan Change According to Where You Are in Your Life?
It is important not to think of an estate plan as a “one and done” task. First, your estate plan will vary considerably based on where you are in your life right now. Maybe you are in your twenties and single, in which case your estate plan will be very different from that of a person who is in their late fifties, considering retirement. Once your estate plan is done, it must be revisited—either every three to five years or so, or anytime you have a major change in your life (marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, you open a business or get a better job, or move to a different state). Any of these life changes can necessitate changes to your estate plan.
What are the Benefits of Having an Estate Plan?
There are many good reasons to have an estate plan, including the following:
- Avoiding probate
- Maintaining control of your assets even after your death (i.e., ensuring your assets go where you would want them to go)
- Protecting your legacy
- Planning for business succession
These are all extremely important reasons to have an estate plan prepared before you actually need it.
What Can Happen When You Do Not Have an Estate Plan?
Actually, everyone in the state of Florida has an estate plan. If you die without preparing an estate plan (including how assets are titled and proper beneficiary designations on certain assets), then the intestacy succession laws found in the Florida Probate Code will dictate who will inherit your estate—and those decisions may be ones you would not have made and would not want. For example…
- If you die with no will or other estate plan in the state of Florida and you are survived by a spouse and children (belonging to you and your spouse), your spouse will inherit 100 percent of your estate.
- If you are survived by a spouse and children (or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren), some of whom are not children belonging to your spouse (yours from a former marriage or relationship), your surviving spouse will inherit half of your estate, and your descendants will inherit the remaining half to be divided among them. If you have no surviving spouse, but you do have children (or grandchildren or great-grandchildren), they will inherit 100 percent of your estate, divided equally.
- If you have no spouse or children, your parents will inherit equal shares of your estate, or if only one parent is living, that parent will receive 100 percent of your estate. If your parents are deceased, and you have no spouse or children, your siblings and their descendants will inherit.
While these choices might be okay with you, they might not. For example, what if you and your spouse are split up, intending to divorce and you die without an estate plan, therefore, the state gives your entire estate to your spouse? It is a far better idea to have an estate plan in place than to leave it to chance.
How Groover Law, PLLC, Can Help You with Your Estate Planning Needs?
As you might imagine, for those of us who are unfamiliar with estate plans and Florida laws regarding estate plans, it can be a complex task. I can help you through the process, ensuring you end up with an estate plan that perfectly fits you and your life. I have a unique background, education, and credentials that are all perfectly suited to assisting people just like you in estate planning. At Groover Law you will find it exceptionally easy to do business with me as I will clearly communicate expectations, costs, and time upfront, with no surprises, fostering a long-term, client-centered relationship. Contact Groover Law, PLLC for all your estate planning needs.