Florida Estate Planning Checklist

Florida Estate Planning Checklist

The new year is always a good time to take stock of your estate plans and be sure they are up to date. You’ll want to leave your affairs in the best shape possible so when the time inevitably comes (hopefully many years from now), your family will be financially protected.

Here is a quick estate planning checklist to get you started:

 

  1. Be sure you have all necessary documents, including a will, living will, healthcare power of attorney, and more. These items were discussed in my blog last new year’s, so I won’t go into detail about them here.

 

  1.  Look into buying life insurance. If you have a spouse, young children, or elderly parents you support, life insurance may be a good idea. Contact an agent or get quotes online from Esurance or other sites.

 

  1. Update your beneficiary forms. Some assets, including bank accounts and retirement plans, allow you to bypass the probate process after your death if you name a beneficiary on these accounts. The money then goes immediately to the person you have designated. You can similarly tell your broker to list a beneficiary on your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts.

 

  1. Consider how you want to die. Most Americans don’t give that enough thought—leaving their loved ones to figure out how you want to spend your last months and days, and what type of ceremony you want after you’re gone. That’s why, in consultation with hospice experts, my firm created the free document My Last Emotional Wishes. This form does not replace a will or living will and is not a legally binding document. But it gives your family peace of mind that they’re acting as you would want them to. Download this free form at the bottom of the home page of my website.

 

  1. Protect your business. If you are the sole proprietor of a business, be sure to make a succession plan. Even if you have partners, a buyout agreement for them to pay your heirs for your portion should be in place.

 

  1. Make your final arrangements. Purchase a burial plot or cremation package, so that expense won’t fall to your heirs.

 

  1. Store all your documents carefully. Legal documents, from wills to funeral prepayment plans, should be carefully stored in a lock box or fireproof safe in your home. Your attorney can also store your legal documents in the office vault. Either way, it’s critical that you tell your close relatives where they can find all these important papers. Never store them in your bank’s safety deposit box; your heirs will not be able to access that box without a court order.

Contact the Law Offices of Gary M. Landau for a free consultation about your probate, real estate, or estate planning matters, by calling 954-979-6566 or emailing.

Estate Planning for Single Parents

No one with young children wants to think that something might happen to them. But for a single parent, that difficult thought brings on added worries. After all, what will happen to your child should the unthinkable happen.

Estate Planning for Single ParentsEveryone with children should prepare a will and other important documents. In my law practice in South Florida, I help single parents carefully think through what they would want to happen to their child if they unexpectedly passed away or became incapacitated. Here are a few guidelines to help.

Make a Will

Younger people often think a will is something older people need. But parents of young children, and especially single parents, need a will more than almost anyone else. That’s because in addition to money and property, you have the care of your child to consider. Whether your assets are vast or modest, a will carefully lays out your wishes. This keeps your children from experiencing a lengthy court battle among various relatives, which happens more often than you might think. You’ll want to revisit and update the will as your children grow.

Name a Guardian

One of the most important sections of your will is to name a guardian. This person, a very close relative or friend whom you trust deeply, will care for your child if you pass away and the child’s other parent is not alive or has no parental rights; a guardian can also manage the money that goes to your children from your will.

You can additionally name a guardian in a document outside of your will. Florida law allows you to designate a “preneed guardian,” a person who will be legally responsible for your children if you become incapacitated, a condition that does not trigger the will. This simple document can be drafted by an attorney when they make up your will.

You’ll want to revisit your choice of guardian over the years. Someone who might be appropriate for your children when they are young might not be best if they are teenagers, especially if that would mean uprooting them to another state.

Consider a Trustee

If you prefer to break up the roles of the person who would care for your children and the one who oversees their money, you can name a trustee in your will to manage your child’s assets.  The trustee’s role can terminate when your child reaches adulthood, or can continue for as long as desired.

Determine If You Need a Special Trust

If you have a lot of money or a child with special needs, you might want to create a trust for your children. This money is placed into the trust at a bank when you create it. Your child cannot access this money until they reach the age you specify, typically 21 or later.

Life Insurance

You can name your minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance. But if you pass away before they become of age, their guardian or trustee will be in charge of the money.

If you are interested in drafting a will or other documents for your estate planning in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

Estate Planning: Why Wills Aren’t Just for Princes

Last WillThe death of the musician Prince is more than just a tragedy of a brilliant life cut way too short. It’s also a reminder that anything can happen at any time, and a cautionary tale for all of us about the importance of drafting a will, no matter how far off death may appear.

According to an article in the New York Times, Prince, who died at age 57 and had no spouse or children, died without a will, a situation legally known as dying intestate. And before you say, “I don’t have the assets that he had,” know that dividing up dollars is not the only benefit a will provides.

If you don’t currently have an updated will, consider drafting one. Here are some reasons why it could be important:

1. A will says who will be the executor of your estate.

The executor is the person in charge of handling the legal process, or probate, after your death. A good executor, who in Florida is called a personal representative, works with an attorney to ensure that your estate is divided up quickly and fairly; a poor one can delay or prejudice the process and stoke friction within the surviving family.

2. A will names the guardian for your children.

If you’ve got young children, having an updated will is crucial. This document names the friend or relative you want to take care of your kids, known as their guardian, until they turn 18, a designation that keeps grandparents or siblings from battling it out after you’re gone. And if you drafted a will and named a guardian when your children were tiny and now they’re teens, take another look to see if the guardian needs changing. When my kids were little, we named my wife’s sister in another state as their guardian, because she was raising kids of her own; once our kids became teens, it made sense to switch it to their local grandparents, so they wouldn’t be uprooted from their friends and school if tragedy struck.

3. A will lets you decide where your assets are going.

Of course, the biggest reason you should have a will is that, without one, it is state law, not you, that dictates who gets what. You may want your best friend to get your new Lexus, for example, but the law states that without a will your assets go to your closest relatives–even if you haven’t spoken to them in years.

If you would like to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, please contact us at The Law Office of Gary Landau, P.A. Our office is conveniently located in Coral Springs, Florida.