Although most of us would like our real and personal property distributed to those we love (as opposed to having Florida law “write a Will” for us – which is what essentially happens when we die without a Will or intestate), the fact is many of us procrastinate. Whether it’s because we’re busy living, or because our mortality can be sad to contemplate, the process of creating a carefully considered estate plan provides numerous benefits, including the peace of mind derived from knowing we’ve protected our loved ones and provided for the distribution of our assets in accordance with our wishes. Other specific benefits of having a properly drafted estate plan include the ability to:
- Choose to whom and how much of your real and/or personal property and any other assets you own will be distributed after you die (instead of Florida law deciding);
- Provide the terms for when and how your assets will be distributed (or managed) after you die, including instructions for any loved ones who may need extra care;
- Appoint individuals to serve as your medical surrogates in the event you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself;
- Decide who will make financial decisions on your behalf (note: a properly drafted power of attorney can often avoid costly and time-consuming court proceedings);
- Designate preferences for the care of minors (subject to Court approval) and appoint persons to manage their assets;
- Secure greater protection for your real estate and/or business(es) during your lifetime;
- Plan for the distribution of a business in the event of your death or disability;
- Reduce court costs, legal fees and processes such as probate after your death;
- Avoid or minimize the likelihood of family rifts among your family members and loved ones;
- Specify your personal preferences and instructions for funeral, burial or cremation arrangements; and
- Leave instructions for the distribution and/or care of your pets (if you have any and would like to provide for them).
At a minimum, an estate plan to address your needs in the event of a disability or death, should include a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Directives, and a Durable Power of Attorney. In many cases a properly funded Revocable Trust may also be advisable since it offers additional benefits, for example, during your lifetime as Trustee of your Trust you continue to retain the same control you currently have over all your assets, your Trust can include provisions for the management of your assets in the event of a disability, and a separate tax return does not need to be filed; following your death, a Revocable Trust will eliminate or reduce the need for “probate” (including court costs and legal fees) for assets such as real estate or ownership interests in a corporation or LLC that are properly funded in your Trust, and, your assets will be distributed privately (which is not the case when the probate process is required). For more information on Estate Planning, and/or Business Entity Formation, see our Estate Law page.
However, the probate process will be required if a person dies without the proper legal documents and/or designations needed to avoid probate. What is probate? Probate is a court-administered judicial process wherein a probate court judge in the county where the person died will have to approve the final distribution of a decedent’s property before any legal beneficiaries or heirs can take title to the decedent’s assets after the decedent’s debts have been paid or otherwise settled. In cases where a person dies with a Will only (i.e. no Trust or other necessary probate-avoidance mechanisms that will avoid probate of their property such as legal beneficiary designations where permitted), probate will be required before a decedent’s legal beneficiaries can take title to the decedent’s assets. In addition, when a person dies without a Will, probate will also be required before a decedent’s legal heirs can take title to the decedent’s assets in accordance with the Florida Statutes on descent and distribution. For more information, see our Probate page.
With over 20 years’ experience, Attorney Isabel Betancourt-Levey applies her knowledge and conscious experience to create a specially-tailored estate plan to meets each client’s individual needs. She will personally meet with you to listen, present the best estate planning options available for you, and deliver an estate plan that honors your intentions so you can provide for your loved ones following that one certainty in each of our lives. To meet with Attorney Isabel Betancourt-Levey for an initial complimentary consultation call 786.262.5105, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the ‘Contact Our Firm’ section on the right.