Estate Planning & Probate

Estate planning is a highly personal process, requiring close attention to the familial and financial goals of the individuals involved.  Proper planning can spare one’s loved ones unnecessary emotional and financial distress. Click HERE for our Estate Planning Fundamentals.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process where a court supervises the process of identifying and gathering a decedent’s assets, paying the decedent’s valid debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. Click HERE for more information.

What is a Will? 

A Will (often referred to as a Last Will and Testament) is a written document specifying the distribution of your assets after your death.  Without a valid will, your assets will be distributed according to Florida’s intestate statutes. Click HERE for more information.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal relationship between three essential parties to the trust:  (1) the grantor (the party creating the trust); (2) the trustee (the party who manages the assets of the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary); and (3) the beneficiary (the party whom the trust benefits). A single party may function in more than one of the three roles.  There are two general categories of trusts:  living (inter vivos) trusts, and testamentary trusts. More specialized trusts are utilized for charitable and tax planning. Click HERE for more information.

 

Considerations

Will funds be available to your loved ones in the event something happens to you?  Who, as a matter of law, will your home and assets go to upon your death?  It might not be who you think, or would prefer.  Will your loved ones be able to depend upon the assets you leave, or will they be unnecessarily diminished by debt, taxes, or poor investment?

Getting Started

Answering the above estate planning questions typically begins with crafting a Will and/or Trust, at minimum.  A Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Living Will are also necessary if you wish to designate those who will handle your financial and health care responsibilities if you are unable to prior to death. A Durable Power of Attorney is a particularly important document, as it can usually avoid the necessity for appointment of a guardian in the event you are ever incompetent to execute documents on your own. The Florida Bar has published a helpful Consumer Pamphlet HERE.

Advanced Issues

For advanced estate planning needs, you may look to appointment of a Preneed Guardian, Revocable or Irrevocable Living Trusts, Asset Protection Trusts, or Special Need Trusts. Further asset preservation and tax minimizing vehicles include Marital Deduction and Credit Shelter Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRT), Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILIT), Grantor-Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS), or Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts.