Estate planning is often a neglected part of financial planning. While it may be appealing to avoid uncomfortable questions like “What happens to my assets after I die?”, unfortunately, roughly half of Americans don’t have a will, and even fewer have an estate plan. However, understanding estate plans and why they’re important is a significant hurdle to consider and ultimately a vital matter to check off your to-do list.
A common misconception is that you have to be rich to participate in estate planning. On the contrary, nearly everyone has an estate, even those with very little income or physical possessions. Your estate consists of everything you own: your car, home, real estate, investments, life insurance, furniture, personal possessions, and checking account—even if there are only a few hundred dollars in there. However, no matter how large or modest your estate may be, you cannot take it with you when you die.
At Patriot Legal Group, we’re dedicated to listening carefully to your needs and objectives and providing an honest opinion about which components of an estate plan can be utilized to best suit your goals. Reach out today for help protecting your future.
What Is an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is the preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual’s asset base in the event of their death. If you’re a Florida resident, this may involve assembling several key estate planning documents to create a coherent and holistic plan.
Without a blueprint in place, settling your affairs after you pass away could have a long-lasting and costly impact on your loved ones, even if you don’t have a pricey home, large IRA, or valuable possessions. Most estate plans are set up with the help of an attorney experienced in estate law.
Assets that could make up an individual’s estate include houses, cars, stocks, artwork, life insurance, pensions, and debt. Individuals have various reasons for planning an estate, such as preserving family wealth, providing for a surviving spouse and children, funding children’s or grandchildren’s education, or leaving their legacy behind to a charitable cause. Basic estate planning tasks may include the following:
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document that explains when and how your beneficiaries will inherit your property and assets. It should also name your choice of an executor—sometimes called a personal representative—who will be in charge of settling your final affairs and guiding your estate through the probate process.
Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will
A healthcare power of attorney (HPOA) is a signed legal document that names a single person as your healthcare decision-maker in the event that you can’t make decisions yourself. A living will outlines your wishes regarding medical care if you’re incapacitated, terminally ill, or unable to communicate. This is a statement of your wishes as they relate to decisions about life support and any kind of life-sustaining medical intervention that you do or don’t want.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone else to manage your finances in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions yourself. The power is granted in a document and may be useful for both you and your family in times of crisis.
Establish a Trust
A trust is an arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to control your assets. Trusts can be arranged in many ways and can specify exactly how and when the assets pass to the beneficiaries. Trusts are usually established with the goal of saving time, reducing paperwork, providing legal protection for the trustor’s assets, and ensuring that those assets are distributed according to the wishes of the trustor.
For example, a trust would allow you to dictate how you wanted your child to benefit from your assets throughout their life. You may want to stipulate that assets are used in a certain way or received at a certain time. A trust is a way to protect assets from being used in a way that you wouldn’t see fit if you were in control of them.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?
Estate planning attorneys are experienced and licensed legal professionals with a thorough understanding of the state and federal laws that affect how your estate will be inventoried, valued, dispersed, and taxed after your death. Estate planning doesn’t begin and end with a last will and testament as many people might assume. An attorney working in this field may also draft living trusts, develop a plan to mitigate or avoid estate taxes, and work to ensure that your life’s savings and assets are safe from your beneficiaries’ creditors after your death.
Estate planning attorneys can also prepare power of attorney and healthcare directives that arrange for someone to take care of your affairs in the event that you become mentally incapacitated. Likewise, they can help you avoid guardianship or conservatorship issues if you need someone else to look after your affairs. An estate planning attorney may be able to assist you with the following tasks:
- Creating a will
- Designating your beneficiaries
- Establishing a durable power of attorney and a medical durable power of attorney
- Finding ways to reduce and avoid estate tax when possible
- Finding ways to avoid the probate court process
- Setting up any trusts you might need to protect your assets, both for your own benefit during your lifetime in the event of incapacity, and for the benefit of your beneficiaries after your death
Fortunately, legal assistance is right around the corner. At Patriot Legal Group, our team has helped hundreds of clients with their estate plans and is dedicated to guiding you and your family with sensitivity and compassion.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Estate Planning Attorney Today
It is never too early to begin planning for the future, and it’s vital that you ensure that your wishes concerning the distribution of your property and assets are followed upon your death. When properly executed, an estate plan provides the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have done everything possible to protect yourself and your family. At Patriot Legal Group, you can rest easy knowing your estate matter is in the hands of a highly experienced Orlando estate planning attorney.
At Patriot Legal Group, we intimately understand how overwhelming this process can feel, which is why we’re committed to standing by your side and protecting your legal rights. Our personal approach removes the guesswork and creates a smooth and pain-free process for you and your family. For all your estate planning needs, call (407) 737-7222 or complete our online contact form today!