Estate planning is the roadmap for the future, bringing peace of mind for individuals, families, and business owners. At every stage of life, our clients have particular needs and concerns. At Phillips & Finley LLC, we work hard to accommodate each of our clients’ unique circumstances in a personalized and customized estate planning process.
Many of our senior clients have defined assets and income. They want to leave an inheritance to their children and grandchildren. They are concerned with preserving their assets if they need nursing home care. Many want to make sure they have a plan to ensure their wishes are adhered to in the event of incapacity.
As a person reaches the legal age of 18, it means that parents are no longer able to make medical or financial decisions for their children. It is recommended that young adults have health care advanced directives, a simple will, and a power of attorney. These documents will be their voice in the event of a crisis.
Newly married couples should update or create new estate plans that include merging their assets and making changes in beneficiary and health care agent designations. A new marriage may be the time to transfer assets into a trust. When children or stepchildren are involved, it is vital to have a will to appoint a guardian of your choice. This person will take over parental responsibilities if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated or absent.
Some of the tools often used by our offices to help our client plan for eventual death and incapacity are:
- Last Will & Testament
- Simple Revocable Trusts
- Enhanced Life Estate Deeds (Ladybird Deeds)
- Advance Directives
A last will & testament is essentially a document that provides instructions to the probate court on how individuals would like their assets to be distributed upon their death. In Florida, the two most common types of probate are formal administration and summary administration. In formal administration, a personal representative is appointed by the court to administer the estate by settling debts with creditors and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Summary administration is a shortened version of probate for estates valued at less than $75,000, minus the value of exempt property. A formal administration, on average, lasts between nine months to a year. A summary administration can take anywhere from one month to six months, depending on the circumstances. Click here to learn more about probate administration.
Trusts and ladybird deeds are often used to avoid probate. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement. A named trustee manages an estate and bypasses probate court to distribute an estate’s assets to the estate’s heirs. A ladybird deed gives the owner control over their property until their death. After death, the property is transferred to the heirs without the need for probate.
Though a probate administration does have its advantages in certain circumstances, it is usually more costly than estate planning. It tends to lengthen the process of transferring assets after death. Additionally, a probate administration may more easily open the door to beneficiaries contesting the plan our client puts in place. Click here to learn more about probate avoidance.
Advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney, health care surrogates, and living wills, are the most useful tools in planning for temporary or permanent incapacity and end-of-life matters. A client can appoint someone of their choosing, usually a spouse, a trusted friend, or adult child, to make decisions regarding their property and health care if the client is incapable of making informed decisions for themselves. Click here to learn more about Advance Directives.
For quality legal counsel, contact Phillips & Finley LLC.
Estate plans should be reviewed and updated regularly. They should also be revised for every significant life change. A divorce, remarriage, birth or adoption of a child, retirement, or the death of an heir are some of the reasons to re-evaluate your estate plans. It can give you peace of mind to know that you have left clear instructions to your loved ones for the future. To speak with an experienced DeLand estate planning attorney, contact Phillips & Finley LLC at 386-734-5959.