Estate Planning Lawyer Essentials You Need To Know

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Effective estate planning in Florida entails taking care of all situations that will arise after your passing. It might be necessary to move assets into a trust, acquire life insurance, or change the beneficiary designations on your IRAs and insurance policies. In such cases, you can get additional guidance from your estate planning attorney on what actions to take.

Typical estate planning documents include

  • A will that specifies who should inherit your property and money upon your passing. Without your will, your possessions will immediately pass to your family under the state’s rules, which may not reflect your priorities.
  • A trust manages the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries. Trusts are frequently created to safeguard assets, evade probate, or reduce taxes.
  • In the event of your incapacity, powers of attorney enable someone else to handle your finances, make decisions, and sign a document on your behalf.

Estate planning is easy to put off, but when you make a plan for your family and business, you can be at peace knowing that you’ve taken the best possible care of both your company as well as your loved ones. 

Estate Planning Lawyer With Client

Estate Planning In Coral Gables, Florida

You can’t see into the future because you don’t have a crystal ball. Rather than waiting for the future to happen to you, why not make it happen? You can start with estate planning and reach your objectives with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer.

With your estate planning attorney, you can develop a legal strategy to achieve your objectives, which may include:

  • Upholding the utmost respect for one’s personal space and dignity.
  • The ability to make choices regarding one’s health and finances while maintaining that autonomy.
  • Avoiding or reducing estate taxes and probate costs.
  • Saving time and expense of a court-supervised guardianship by appointing a guardian before the need arises. This is especially helpful for families with minor children or family members with special needs.

Don’t try to play attorney by filling out forms you find online or at the office supply store. These forms will not be personalized for your situation and needs. You also risk making a costly oversight by failing to have them properly signed, witnessed, or notarized. It may be too late to procure the proper documents and to appoint a guardian should you become incapacitated before the error is discovered. 

Without a signature, estate plans are useless, and some documents, like wills, must be executed in the presence of two witnesses to be legally binding. For directions on witnessing, notarizing, or signing the documents, listen to experienced estate planning attorneys. 

Get qualified legal counsel and invest in the future by doing things properly the first time. They can advise you on Florida’s state law regarding the validity of the will and its requirements.

Wills In Florida

Having a valid Florida will in place is crucial. In a last will and testament, you lay out the terms on how and to whom your property will be distributed after your death. You can trust that the estate planning attorney will listen very closely to your needs and concerns before making recommendations about how to draft your will.

After death, your will must be submitted to the probate court. After that, the court has to distribute your property. Many incorrectly believe that probate is not necessary if their estate is small and not susceptible to estate taxes. It’s not like that at all.  The need for probate arises regardless of whether or not an estate’s assets are taxable.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will Or Intestate

If you pass away intestate or without a valid will, Florida law will decide who gets your property and how it will be distributed. If you own property in Florida, the probate court will divide it among your heirs strictly based on their degree of familial connection to you. It means that without a will, your closest family members or relatives will automatically become your beneficiaries based on Florida’s intestacy laws.

Conversely, in Florida, if you don’t have a will, the judge will determine who will manage your estate. Of course, you probably want to make sure the court doesn’t decide these matters for you.  To start the probate process, your heir who wishes to be representative must submit their “Letters of Administration”  then the court can decide whether or not the person qualifies to be appointed as your representative.

What Happens If You Die With A Valid Will

If you have a will, you can appoint your representative to administer your estate upon your death. The personal representative is responsible for gathering and protecting your assets, giving notice to and paying all debts, distributing property to your beneficiaries, and settling any outstanding taxes or other fees.

The representative may retain the services of a probate lawyer, an accountant, or other professionals to help with the probate process. The probate court will want to hear from the personal representative regularly. A probate lawyer can explain the process to you so you understand it and be able to prepare for it better. 

It is recommended to review your will every three years or whenever there is a significant change in your finances, family, or medical status.  This is important to note because Florida and federal laws are constantly evolving.

Choosing the right tools for your estate planning needs is crucial. Various tools are available to protect your assets and legacy when you pass away. One of these is a living trust. You can speak with your estate planning attorney to choose which tool suits your situation.

Types Of Living Trusts

Living trusts are commonly used in estate plans.  The Florida Trust Code establishes the rules for living trusts in the Sunshine State. Revocable living trusts can be changed, while you cannot modify irrevocable ones.  Knowing the different types of living trusts can help you choose the one appropriate for your needs.

  • Irrevocable Trust

Once an irrevocable living trust is established, the grantor loses all control over the trust’s assets. The trust cannot be altered or revoked in any way. Irrevocable living trusts are less popular amongst estate planners because of their rigidity. 

However, there are situations where irrevocable trust is the best option to achieve certain goals. These include: 

To Lessen The Impact Of Estate Taxes 

An irrevocable trust can lessen estate tax by removing assets from the grantor’s taxable estate. When assets are transferred into an irrevocable trust, they are no longer considered part of the grantor’s estate for tax purposes. This can lead to a reduction in the overall value of the estate and, subsequently, the amount of estate tax owed upon the grantor’s death. Here’s how it works:

Asset transfer: When the grantor transfers assets into an irrevocable trust, they are essentially giving up ownership and control of those assets. This means the assets are no longer considered part of the grantor’s taxable estate.

Tax-exempt growth: Assets held within an irrevocable trust can grow and generate income that is exempt from estate taxes. This allows the trust’s value to increase over time without adding to the taxable estate.

Trust beneficiaries: The beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust receive the assets and any income generated by the trust, usually after the grantor’s death. Since these assets have already been removed from the grantor’s estate, they will not be subject to estate tax.

Lifetime gift tax exclusion: When assets are transferred into an irrevocable trust, they may be considered gifts to the trust beneficiaries. However, the grantor can use their lifetime gift tax exclusion to offset the gift tax that might otherwise be due. 

By using this exclusion, the grantor can transfer a significant amount of assets into the trust without incurring gift tax liability.

Generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption: An irrevocable trust can also be structured as a generation-skipping trust, which allows assets to be transferred to beneficiaries more than one generation below the grantor (e.g., grandchildren). 

Estate tax exclusion portability: For married couples, any unused portion of the estate tax exclusion of the first spouse to die can be transferred to the surviving spouse. This allows the surviving spouse to potentially shield more of their estate from taxes, further reducing the estate tax burden.

It’s important to note that irrevocable trusts come with certain limitations, such as the inability to change or revoke the trust once it’s established. Due to the complexities and potential tax implications involved in creating an irrevocable trust, it’s recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney or a tax professional to ensure the trust is structured in the most advantageous way possible.

Medicaid Eligibility Requirements 

To qualify for financial aid from a government program like Medicaid, applicants must meet certain requirements. Making a trust irrevocable reduces the risk that its beneficiaries’ financial aid or housing subsidies will be affected by the trust’s existence.

Legal Safeguards Against Debt Collectors 

The settlor and the beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust have greater protection from the settlor’s creditors and the beneficiaries’ creditors than those of a revocable trust because the irrevocable trust cannot be terminated. An irrevocable trust can be useful if you want to shield assets from potential creditors.

  • Revocable Trust

A revocable living trust can be terminated at any time, as the name suggests. There’s more to “revocable” than just the option to dissolve the trust. Although the trust is the legal owner of the assets, the trust’s revocable nature allows you to continue making financial decisions on behalf of the trust.

With revocable living trusts, you, as the grantor, can have some options.

  • Change any of the conditions of the trust
  • Move assets into or out of the trust.
  • Change your beneficiaries, as well as the trustee and successor trustee.

Another common practice when establishing a revocable living trust is for the grantors to name themselves as trustee. The following are some additional benefits of a living trust that you can have set up at any time.

  • Not having to deal with the probate process. When you pass away, your trust will automatically become the owner of the trust assets and will not need to go through probate.
  • Optimizing privacy. By using a trust, you can maintain the privacy of your assets and their distribution to your beneficiaries.
  • Contingency strategy.  If you create a living trust, a successor trustee can take over the administration of the trust in the event of your mental or physical incapacity.

Revocable living trusts are considered potential estate planning tools because they allow you to keep full control of the assets that you transfer to the trust within your lifetime. You should always seek the advice of a competent estate planning lawyer when establishing a living trust. They have the experience and are highly knowledgeable to suggest the best option for you. 

Lawyer Helping Client Creating A Will In Florida

Estate Lawyers & Probate In Florida

The distribution of a deceased person’s assets under court supervision is known as probate. Probate is a legal procedure made available by Florida law. In addition to delaying the distribution of your assets to your loved ones, probate can consume time and resources, which can be very stressful over the months or years it may require to resolve an estate.

There are circumstances when the probate process is quick and painless for the surviving family members, but in a worst-case scenario, it can drag on for years. Although you may have been led to believe that avoiding probate at all costs is the preferred course of action, there may be benefits to probate in certain circumstances.

How Does Estate Planning Work For Small Estates?

For small estates, states like Florida have tailored their probate procedures. These probate procedures may be more efficient, inexpensive, and time-saving than other estate planning tools, like living trusts. The two procedures heirs and beneficiaries can use are the “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration” and “Summary Administration.”

To be eligible for the Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, the estate size is limited to the expenses for funeral and medical bills during the last 60 days when the decedent was still alive. If intestate, it must not be more than $10,000. Surviving families can exempt certain assets from the size of the estate up to $20,000. Consult your estate planning lawyer about what property Florida law allows. 

For estates with not more than $75,000 in value, heirs or beneficiaries can petition the probate court for a Summary Administration. It is a far quicker and less costly way to transfer assets and property than the conventional probate process. 

Pros & Cons Of The Probate Process

In some cases, especially for persons who have passed away intestate, or with no last will and testament, the probate process serves to protect minor estates. In those circumstances, a step-by-step procedure is expected to take place and make sure that the right beneficiaries inherit a decedent’s property. Your estate planning attorney can guide you on the best option to take. 

Additionally, if you currently do not have the financial means to complete estate planning, you can arrange for your estate to cover the fees of the probate procedure after your passing. For those who wish the disposition of their wealth to be known to the public, the probate process may also be advantageous. The execution of a will after someone’s passing makes the details public since wills are public records.

The probate process can occasionally be difficult, particularly if:

  • No beneficiary could be found.
  • A recipient is handicapped.
  • The beneficiary is also the recipient of government benefits.

A full probate or formal administration must be used if a Florida resident passes away with probate assets valued at more than $75,000. A representative can be chosen by the probate court and is responsible for fulfilling fiduciary obligations when handling the estate’s administration. Full probate can be lengthy and costly and last for several months up to a few years.

That said, there are certain documents and courses of action that are involved in estate planning and the probate process. Here are some of them.

Power Of Attorney

Establishing a power of attorney or POA is a crucial component of your estate planning strategy. It enables someone to take action representing the person legally. Depending on what is specified, this person might have the authority to make decisions regarding a range of issues, including real estate, money, investments, or medical care. 

The type of power of attorney in Florida can vary according to your circumstances. But all of them must be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses and recognized before a notary public to be legally binding. Here are the different types of power of attorney:

  • General Power Of Attorney

You can give your agent wide-ranging power with a general power of attorney. General power of attorney is your best option if you want your agent to handle a broad range of decisions, such as handling your assets and managing your care. In addition, financial matters, such as banking, purchasing or selling property, and dealing with the government, can all be handled by your agent. 

  • Limited Power Of Attorney

The limited power of attorney can be utilized when you need to delegate authority to an agent for a limited time and a limited purpose. If you have to leave the country during the closing process, for instance, you can appoint a representative to handle everything on your behalf. When the time or reason for the authorization to act has passed, the power will also disappear.

  • Durable Power Of Attorney

In the case of a durable power of attorney, the authority you bestow upon your agent will remain in effect even if you later become incapacitated. This POA might be either broad or narrow in scope. The phrase “this durable power of attorney is not terminated by subsequent incapacity of the principal save as stated in Chapter 709, Florida Statutes,” must be included in the instrument if it is to be considered a durable power of attorney.

At the end of the day, estate planning involves the distribution of properties that may or may not be easily divided. That’s where property partition comes in.

What Is Property Partition?

Property partition is an owner’s right to divide their land into several parcels. If you own real estate with another person in Florida and want to split it up or sell it, you can do so under Florida laws. If the assets at issue in a partition dispute can be divided into equal portions with equal value or divided under ownership interests, the Court may declare an equal share of the property.

When real property, such as a home, cannot be fairly divided, the court will often order its sale and distribute the revenue equitably or following the parties’ ownership interests. When one owner wants to split their property but can’t afford to buy out the other owner’s stake, property partition is a fair solution. 

You need legal counsel to handle the partition process because it entails complex stages. Leave nothing to chance or wishful thinking; have it done properly with the guidance of a Florida property partition lawyer. Call or visit The Estate Plan to talk to one of its partition lawyers.

For business owners, estate planning is a great way to ensure that the business is passed on to the right person upon the owner’s passing. Read on to learn how it works for business succession.

Business Succession

A lot is riding on your shoulders when you’re the owner and CEO of a thriving company. A responsible business owner must think about more than just the day-to-day running of the company. They must also plan for the eventuality that they will be unable to do so. To ensure the smooth continuation of operations, business owners and managers alike must plan for the eventual transfer of control.

Family business owners may face challenges when trying to incorporate family members in succession planning. On the one hand, it is in the interest of any business owner to see to it that the company’s requirements are met. However, in a multigenerational environment, family company owners seek to address the emotional requirements of the family. 

Business succession lawyers concentrate on the connections between corporate law, tax law, and estate planning. By advising you on matters such as company structure, executive compensation, real estate acquisition, growth capital formation, and eventual exit transaction, business succession attorneys help business owners prepare for the sustainable growth and improvement of their enterprises. They prioritize coordinating their work with your aims and priorities throughout the entire process.

Hire An Estate Attorney Near You

If you’ve been putting off matters like business succession plans, creating trusts, and estate planning in Florida, it’s time to take action. With the Internet, it’s now very easy to find services in any area. Most people find it helpful to use the words “best estate attorney near me” when searching for an estate planning lawyer in their city. 

However, there’s more to it than just picking the first result on Google’s results page. You need an estate lawyer that has a proven track record of efficiency and excellence.

The estate lawyers at The Estate Plan in Florida can handle everything from simple wills and powers of attorney to more complex estate plans that include trusts, guardianship arrangements, and more. They will ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you want them to be—especially if something unexpected happens. Visit The Estate Plan at their offices at 135 San Lorenzo Ave #750 Coral Gables, FL 33146, or call them at (305) 677-8489 to get started on your estate planning journey.