Estate Planning FAQS
What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is a process of preparing for the unforeseen in life. Without even realizing it, you have likely engaged in the Estate Planning process most of your adult life – for example, taking out a life insurance policy, naming beneficiaries on your retirement plan, or when you are strategizing on how to preserve family heirlooms. By working with an experienced attorney, a Comprehensive Estate Plan will include nominations of guardians for any minor children, document your wishes in the event of your own incapacity, and help preserve your assets from creditors. Our Estate Plans include important legacy planning documents such as the Living Will, The Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and advanced directives.
What is probate and what are the benefits of avoiding probate?
After someone dies, probate is the legal process that distributes money and property and settles debts. The court will inventory the assets, pay debts owed by the estate and distribute the remaining assets to the deceased’s heirs as requested in their Will if the deceased had a Will. If, however, no Will exists, Florida law controls how the assets will be distributed. Probate avoidance is an important consideration for some clients due to the fact that the probate process is public record, and can oftentimes be a lengthy and expensive court process.
Do I need an Estate Plan if I only have a small estate and little assets?
Estate Planning is particularly important for smaller estates, believe it or not. Typically, smaller estates fare worse as the probate process tends to be a lengthy and costly process, and the cash reserves in the estate may be liquidated quickly in the payment of estate taxes and/or probate attorneys' fees. Planning ahead and having Estate Planning documents prepared will help spare your estate, however small or large, and preserve your legacy. When in doubt, it is best to speak with an experienced attorney to help you understand the pros and cons of your options, to help you make the best decision available to you.
Can my spouse or children make decisions for me if I am hospitalized?
Your family members are not legally empowered to make decisions on your behalf simply because they are family. The proper legal documents such as Durable Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives must be executed in order to allow family members to make legal decisions for you.
What documents do you include in the Estate Plan?
Although every client has unique circumstances that must be addressed, there are certain basic documents that we recommend in Estate Planning. Documents such as Living Will, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Advanced Directives and Durable Power of Attorney are important documents that everyone should have. Guardianship documents are important, especially when there are minor children. We also include the Last Will and Testament in our Estate Plans, and in many circumstances, recommend consideration of a Revocable Living Trust to assist in probate avoidance.
Can I just put my family members' names on my assets?
Although joint titling of assets is an option and common strategy, many times it is not the best solution because it exposes your estate assets to the creditors of your family members and once that occurs it is difficult to undo in the event of a bankruptcy, divorce or other legal matter. We recommend the use of a Revocable Trust to accomplish the same goal without the additional risks to your estate.
What about giving away assets before you die as a strategy?
Gifting of assets is an option and strategy. However, it is important to consider quality of life prior to deciding to gift assets, as oftentimes the estate assets are needed for support and gifting away assets while living may result in inadequate funds to live on. Additionally, if Medicaid is involved, there is a "look-back period"" for any transfers made causing a gifting strategy to backfire leaving an individual with no assets to pay for needed long-term care and possibly no public assistance benefit. It is also important to be mindful of Gift Tax Returns that must be filed when gifting assets, and if the gift amount is over the IRS prescribed limit, a Federal Tax can be levied on the gifts. We are here to help! Our experienced lawyers will help you understand all of your options so that you can make the best decision to accomplish your goals.
How complicated is the process?
At J M Love Law, we strive to make the process as simple and pleasant as possible for our clients! We will provide you with everything you need in order to feel protected and confident moving forward. We take pride in offering exceptional customer service to all of our clients, regardless of whether they hire us to prepare one document or their entire Estate Plan. We believe in the power of doing good, and helping families move forward securely. Once you make the decision to hire our firm, we work with you to develop an Estate Plan strategy that best meets your needs, goals and desires for your legacy. We will provide you with convenient checklists to streamline all of the important information, and will take the time to educate you on important information so that you can be empowered with knowledge moving forward. Once your Estate Plan is completed, we will provide you with a complete Estate Plan Portfolio for your convenience, containing all of your important Estate Planning documents and information to protect your legacy. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for you! Leave the legal work to us, so you can get back to what matters most and love the legacy you leave behind!