Estate planning documents such as a Last Will and advanced directives such as a Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate are needed to avoid uncertainty and litigation, i.e., a Guardianship. Further, Living Trust, a Living Will and a Power of Attorney, may also be appropriate Estate Planning Documents.
Our firm reviews numerous significant issues with individuals and families regarding their Estate Plan. First and foremost is obtaining information regarding family members (i.e., a family tree) and kinship. While at first glance, this may sound simple, but relatives may become estranged or forgotten over time. Also, family history documentation such as birth, marriage and death records, are not always accurately maintained outside the United States. Next, we review the suspected assets in order to understand whether there are any gift or estate tax implications. Assets of an estate may include include bank statements, stocks, cars, boats, real estate and other items of value. Not all assets are owned individually, though. Therefore, it is important to determine whether property is held individually or jointly with rights of survivorship, and therefore, not be controlled by a Last Will. Certain other assets, such as payable on death accounts, life insurances and retirement accounts may pass directly to named beneficiaries outside of a will. Typically, only probatable assets in a person’s name alone are controlled by a Last Will. Discussing beneficiaries and having Personal Representatives, sometimes called Executors, and Trustees is also paramount. The primary goal of preparing a Last Will and a proper estate plan is to avoid disputes and confusion regarding the settling of one’s affairs. In the event a person dies without a Will, i.e., intestate, Florida state laws provide a rubric for inherits an estate. The proper preparation of estate planning documents aims to avoid inefficiencies and the possibility of unintended beneficiaries benefiting from an estate.