What exactly is estate planning? It is twofold: (1) it is deciding what will happen to your possessions and assets and making sure that your family and friends are taken care of after you have passed away, and (2) it is ensuring that your health care and end of life care wishes are carried out if you fall ill or become incapacitated.
While most people do not want to think about death and what happens when they die, it is still important to begin planning for a time when you will no longer be around while you are still in good health both mentally and physically. After you pass away, even if you have verbally communicated to your family how you would like your estate to be administered; without a written, official estate plan in place including documents such as a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will, there are no guarantees that your estate will be dealt with in the way that you had hoped for. Establishing a solid estate plan is the only way to ensure that your estate and health care is administered according to your wishes.
First, developing a plan for how you will divide up your assets before you pass away allows you to decide what happens to your assets, instead of allowing a relative or friend (who may have their own motives or personal goals as to what will happen to your possessions) or the courts to decide how your estate is administered. When a person dies without any type of will or trust set up, all of their financial assets and property are subject to the laws of the state. This is referred to as dying “intestate,” or intestate succession. Simply put, you will have no control over who inherits what you once owned. Everything will be left up to pre-determined laws that have been set up by the state you live in.
Furthermore, when you pass away, your friends and family will already have enough of a tough time coping with the emotional burden that comes with a difficult loss. Making it easy for them to handle your estate by providing them with written documents setting out your goals and wishes for your possessions is a great gift to give your friends and family. Having everything pre-planned will give your loved ones time to grieve and reduce the stress of fairly dividing your assets according to your wishes.
Lastly, if your estate is subject to taxes, a proper estate plan can help reduce or even eliminate these taxes, allowing your family to retain most of your assets instead of handing them over to the state.
As to the right time to establish an estate plan; many would say that the right time to begin thinking about estate planning is when you become a legal adult; others could say that it is when you become a parent or guardian of a child; while some might say it is when you retire or reach a certain age. However, speaking frankly, there is no “right” time to begin thinking about estate planning, because each person and each family is different. Quite frankly, any time is a good time to begin estate planning once you become an adult, because life, as we know, is unpredictable. Any time is a good time to consider the wellbeing of your family, friends and possessions after you pass away. The important thing is that you do not wait too long to set up an estate plan. After you pass away or become incapacitated, it is too late to create a solid estate plan, and your friends and family may be left both emotionally upset by your loss and stressed, with many questions as to your wishes for your estate or health care.
When it comes to establishing an estate plan, it is most important to think about your specific goals for your estate and how you want your legacy to protected. Do you want to make sure your children have a guardian in place should you pass away or become incapacitated? Do you have multiple assets and want to ensure that your chosen beneficiaries receive your assets as directed? Do you have specific wishes for your end-of-life care should you be incapacitated? These are just some of the considerations you should make when thinking about establishing an estate plan.
If you decide to move forward with an estate plan, you will need to include a few important documents to make sure that all your bases are covered. A typical estate plan will include:
- a Last Will and Testament that is the primary document regulating your wishes as regards inheritance and guardianship;
- a Trust that relates to protecting assets for the benefit of yourself and/or specific persons;
- a Living Will (also called a healthcare directive and proxy or designation of healthcare surrogate) that specifies your intent as regards decisions on your physical well-being and end-of-life arrangements respectively;
- a Power of Attorney that enables a trusted Agent to make financial decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated; and
- for parents with minor children, a temporary guardianship document that names a trusted adult to care for minor children in the event of your incapacity.
Keep in mind that the specific documents you need will vary depending on your situation and your goals for your estate. A lawyer can help you clarify how to move forward with your estate plan and deal with any special circumstances you would like to consider. 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