Estate planning and other end-of-life considerations are not easy things to think about, but they are eventualities that require some serious thought. You might also feel that your estate isn't large enough to require hiring an estate planning attorney. After all, don't you need to have millions of dollars in the bank, a sizable investment portfolio, or even property to need to hire an estate planning attorney?
You need an estate plan, even if you are not rich. There is a lot more to estate planning than you might realize, and without an attorney, the process might be a lot more difficult than you expect for those you leave behind.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?
An estate planning attorney does a lot more than just handle your last will and testament. They are useful allies when it comes to various estate planning needs. Estate planning is multi-faceted, ranging from the distribution of your assets, property, and other items to your beneficiaries to how your personal health and welfare is to be handled as you reach the end of your life. These decisions should not be made lightly or left in just anyone's hands. An estate planning lawyer handles your affairs throughout the process, not just for your family, but for you as well.
Overview of Essential Estate Planning Documents
Here are just some of the essential estate planning documents your estate planning attorney will work through for you:
- Will: Your will is a document that will determine the final division of property and assets to your beneficiaries as well as how debts and obligations are to be settled. Without one, a probate court will determine what happens to your estate, and family members can even enter into drawn-out litigation fighting amongst themselves if anything is left to interpretation.
- Living will: A living will gives you control over your own health and quality of life. An attorney can help you through this process to ensure there is no undue suffering or any heroic efforts that go against your wishes, regardless of what family or care providers might consider to be in your best interests.
- Personal property memorandum: This is an itemized list of your belongings that you want to have passed on in the event of your death. It is referred to in a will and is very important if you want nothing left to speculation for those surviving you.
- Lady Bird deeds: A Lady Bird deed allows you to have complete control over your property and transfer it easily to a beneficiary upon your death. It is also useful in qualifying for Medicaid since it keeps your property from being counted as principal when qualifying for coverage. A skilled elder law attorney can handle this process.
- Organ donation: If you plan on giving the gift of life to others, your wishes should be honored, regardless of what other family members might think of the process.
- Memorial instructions: What happens to our corporeal selves is very important to some of us, and rather than leave it in the hands of others, your wishes will not be questioned when you outline specific memorial instructions.
- Durable power of attorney: A durable power of attorney selects an agent to make financial decisions for you in the event that you cannot make these decisions yourself if you become incapacitated. This person can be granted the authority to reduce your assets in order to help you qualify for Medicaid coverage for long-term care.
- Guardianship declarations: Selecting someone to be your guardian in the event that you become incapacitated is crucial in that you are deciding who this person is so that the court doesn't do it for you. It can also mean selecting guardians for your minor or special-needs children.
- Special needs trust: If you are handling the personal and financial needs of a loved one, especially someone who has a physical or mental disability, you need a special needs trust to ensure they will continue to be financially supported. This trust will also allow them to receive income from a trust without affecting their ability to qualify for public assistance or benefits. Working with a qualified trust lawyer near you ensures that your loved one is taken care of in the future.
- Revocable living trust: This type of trust allows a beneficiary to receive property without public probate. It further streamlines the process of granting property and assets to others. Unlike an irrevocable living trust, the grantor can change the provisions at any time. It will become irrevocable upon the death of the grantor.
When to Call a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
No matter your age, your wealth, your marital status, or your health, the time to establish an estate plan is now. This is because your estate plan ultimately decides what you want to have done with your assets and regarding medical decisions made on your behalf. There is no telling when your estate plan may need to be put into action, so planning early is ideal.
There are many facets to estate planning, so working with a Florida estate planning attorney with expertise in all aspects of what makes up a complete estate plan will help you ensure that you have not missed any crucial elements. Call a skilled estate planning lawyer near you today to begin with a free consultation.
Avoiding Common Estate Planning Mistakes
An estate planning attorney is useful in understanding the law as well as being an objective third party without emotional investment in your estate planning. Their job is to do what they can to preserve your estate and protect your last wishes. These are some common mistakes an attorney can help you avoid:
- Not updating documents: Years pass, and circumstances change. Sometimes, the things you planned long ago are no longer applicable. For example, if you have moved out of state, not updating your durable power of attorney or living will to be compliant with the law of the state you have moved to can cause all sorts of problems you don't want, including affecting your Medicaid or other public benefits.
- Not considering state taxes: If you have recently changed states for retirement or health reasons, your assets might be subject to laws between the states that can jeopardize how you want your wealth and real estate to be divided among your beneficiaries. An attorney can work through this process to determine what is best for your wishes.
- Not protecting against creditors: An attorney can work with creditors and protect a large portion of your assets. This preserves more for your beneficiaries, rather than lining the pockets of a faceless corporation.
How a Florida Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You
An estate planning attorney can help you navigate the complicated and often nuanced process of probate, property distribution, and the protection of your assets at the time of your death. Without an attorney, these decisions are susceptible to be left in the hands of others and your legacy is at risk of being exploited, improperly distributed, or picked apart by the State in some cases. You need a skilled attorney who can protect your property and assets, providing for those you leave behind, and thus preserving your legacy. Contact our office today for a free consultation.