Estate planning is the process of creating documents that legally determine how your assets will be distributed after your death, including who inherits, who controls the distribution of your assets, and when your beneficiaries receive your assets. While most of us do not like to think about dying, we all want to care for our families when the unpleasant inevitable occurs, and estate planning allows us to do just that.
The first step estate planning is to account for all of your property, such as real estate, personal property, life insurance, bank accounts, retirement plans, securities, and business interests. Once you have an accurate picture of what is in your estate, you can easily make decisions about who should inherit your assets and how.
People often believe they do not need an estate plan because they do not think they are “wealthy” or that they have an “estate.” Everyone has an estate that needs to be planned – it is only a matter of how large it is. Creating an estate plan allows you to decide what happens to your family and your assets at your death and helps to provide you with peace of mind as to the protection of your legacy after you pass away.
One of the less talked about, but equally important aspects of creating an estate plan is making sure that you choose the right executor or personal representative for your estate. A personal representative is a person, appointed by the decedent’s Will or the court, to manage and administer the decedent’s estate and its associated assets. The personal representative may be the executor, who is the person named as such in the decedent’s Will; the successor to the executor; or an administrator appointed by the court where the decedent died without a Will naming an executor (this is referred to as intestate, or intestate succession). The terms personal representative, executor, or administrator can essentially be used interchangeably.
Generally, anyone can be an executor or personal representative, with a few major exceptions which differ by state. Florida law states that an executor must be at least 18 years old, cannot be a felon, and must be mentally and physically capable of serving (must not be determined legally incapacitated by a court). While it is usually best practice to name someone who lives close to you, Florida law does have requirements for naming out-of-state executors. Namely, the non-resident executor must be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.
It is imperative that you made the right decision as to who will serve as the executor for your estate, as this person will have a significant degree of control over your assets and, in turn, your legacy after you pass away. But what are some the factors and questions you should ask yourself prior to deciding who will serve as the executor of your estate?
First, while this can be easier said than done, while making this important decision as to who should serve as your estate’s executor, you should choose someone based on their suitability for the role in a practical sense rather than based on emotional considerations or their relation to you. While many people may want to choose their son or daughter to serve as executor of your estate, this may not be the best decision based on practical concerns. For example, if you know that your son or daughter has had difficulties in the past with managing money or assets or you know that their personal wishes do not necessarily align with your personal wishes and goals for the administration of your estate, another person may be a better choice. While it can be challenging to remove your emotions from this potentially difficult decision, it is important to remember that estate planning is done for the protection of your estate, your family/friends, and your legacy, and as such, your own wishes for your estate are key. You want to pick someone that you can trust to follow your wishes and administer your estate exactly as you have directed, who will not disregard your wishes for their personal goals or benefit.
Trust is obviously a major factor in choosing an executor, and as such, many choose a family member of close friend. The most common choices for an executor often include spouses, children, or siblings. The key qualities for an effective executor include honesty, communication, and organization. The distribution of assets can become a nightmare if handled by someone with lacking organizational or communication skills. You will also want to ensure that your choice is someone who is both personally and financially responsible. It is also a good idea to name an alternate executor, in the event your first choice does not work out or something happens to your first choice, such as death, incapacitation or major illness.
If you do not have a friend or family member with these skills, then it might be time to look outside of your circle and hire a professional. Third party executors can include banks, attorneys, and trust companies, to name a few. The Orlando Law Group provides this service, acting on your behalf after the event of your death to ensure that the burden of handling your estate is undertaken by professionals. Choosing a professional executor can also help to lessen the burden placed on your family and friends during a difficult time.
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent and prepare estate planning documents for individuals throughout Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you are dealing with an estate planning issue or are looking to establish your own estate plan, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.
Last Updated on February 18, 2023 by The Orlando Law Group