Florida Estate Planning Attorneys
It seems like there’s never a good time to talk about what will happen when we’re gone. Parents with young children are focused on homework, not wills and trusts. Retirees entering their golden years want to think about their future free from work, not what will happen if they are incapacitated. Grown children hope their aging parents will stay healthy and happy as long as possible, and they are reluctant to imagine otherwise.
The compassionate and practical Florida estate planning attorneys at Chiumento Selis Dwyer P.L. have more than four decades of experience helping families discuss these delicate issues. We tell our clients that having a plan is better for everyone. It gives you control over what happens to you and your family, rather than leaving important decisions to the courts.
When you schedule a consultation with our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys, we will walk you through our estate planning checklist to outline:
- Who will be in charge of your health and finances if you are incapacitated?
- What are your wishes for health care in case you cannot communicate?
- Who will take care of your minor children if something happens to you?
- What will happen to your home, personal property, and other assets?
- What are your preferences for funeral arrangements?
- Is all your important paperwork together, in one place, and have you told someone about it?
The best time to talk about these important topics is now, before you find yourself in a situation where emotions are running high and time is of the essence. Schedule a consultation withour skilled Florida estate planning attorneys today, and let us give you the peace of mind that comes with having your affairs in order.
Start by Making a Will
Creating and updating your will is an essential part of the estate planning process. In your last will and testament, you will give instructions for:
How your assets will be distributed. Depending on your situation, this could be quite simple or very detailed. Some people want all their assets to go directly to their surviving spouse, with their children next in line. Others want to be more specific about how property will be divided, or they may want to include charitable bequests. You may also have conditions that you want to place on how your estate is handled.
Who will care for your minor children. This is a difficult but crucial topic to think about. In addition to deciding who could give your children the love and care they need, you will need to discuss how your children’s inheritance will be handled. Some people choose to separate who would care for their children from who would manage the children’s finances. Others have a trusted relative or friend who will agree to manage everything.
If you don’t have a will, your assets and children are at the mercy of the courts. Florida law will dictate how your property is handled through what’s known as “intestate succession.” Your estate will go through the lengthy probate process, where the court will identify your assets and heirs. The court will also appoint a guardian for your children.
Whether you need a simple will or a more complex one, our experienced Florida estate panning attorneys can walk you through the process to ensure your wishes are carried out. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our caring and skilled legal team.
Decide What Will Happen in Case You Are Incapacitated
The idea of an accident or illness leaving you incapacitated is scary. However, it’s made worse by the thought that you could have no control over what decisions are made on your behalf at that point. Our sensitive Florida estate planning attorneys will help you make practical plans to ensure your wishes are clear and you are in trusted hands.
The major decisions you will need to make regarding incapacity are:
Your wishes for medical decisions. In Florida, you should have an “advance directive.” This legal document will include both a living will (to outline your health care wishes) and a designated health care surrogate (to make decisions based on your wishes).
- The living will includes important health care decisions. For example, you may want to receive palliative care to reduce your pain but not allow “extraordinary measures” to keep you alive.
- Designating a health care surrogate, or giving a loved one medical power of attorney, allows you to choose who will make decisions about your care if you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.
Your plans for finances. You will also need to decide how your finances will be handled in case you are no longer able to manage them. This will mean giving a trusted individual financial power of attorney in case you are incapacitated.
If you do not make these types of decisions ahead of time, the courts will make them for you in the event that you become incapacitated. If your wishes are not clear, loved ones could feel guilty or get angry at each other as they struggle to make decisions for you in an extremely difficult time.
Make your voice heard and take the pressure off your loved ones by talking with one of our Florida estate planning attorneys today. We can help you create living wills and advance directives, along with naming durable powers of attorney, in case you are ever incapacitated.
Protect Your Assets from the Probate Process
Even if you have established a will, you should still take asset protection measures to save your loved ones from a complicated and time-consuming probate process. Our Florida estate planning attorneys can help you develop a strategy to protect your assets from probate.
Some of the tactics our attorneys use include:
Establishing a living trust. Assets placed in a living trust, also known as a revocable trust, do not have to go through Florida probate court. And you still have easy access to them while you are alive. Our skilled estate planning attorneys can help you establish and properly fund a trust. We will also talk to you about what to consider in naming a “trustee” (a person who is responsible for managing the trust). You could name yourself, along with a co-trustee or a successor who will handle the trust in the event of your death.
Ensuring joint ownership of assets. In Florida, assets that are owned jointly automatically pass to the surviving co-owner when one co-owner dies. This is referred to as “tenants by the entirety” when the asset is owned by a married couple as a whole. You may also consider jointly owning assets with your children or an unmarried partner “with rights of survivorship,” where the asset can automatically be passed to the surviving person without going through probate.
Designating beneficiaries on all possible accounts. This includes naming beneficiaries for life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, and bonds. These types of assets can be designated as “payable on death” (POD) or registered as “transfer on death” (TOD). Beneficiaries for these assets do not have to go through the probate process.
Gifting assets to your loved ones. Some people may choose to give family members and friends parts of their inheritance before death. This can be a good way to pass along cherished belongings while you are still alive. However, there can be tax implications with gifting, so it’s important that you have all the facts before you make this decision.
Because Florida has no income tax, inheritance tax, or estate tax (also known as death tax), many people consider it a great place to retire and start their estate planning. Our Florida estate planning attorneys can walk you through the steps of establishing “domicile” in Florida and discuss a strategy to help you protect your assets in the years to come.
Get Started with One of Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys Now
At Chiumento Selis Dwyer P.L., we believe that you should feel empowered and in control during the estate planning process. After all, our goal is to make sure your wishes and your needs are met. We will help you develop a comprehensive estate planning checklist to ensure all your affairs are in order. To prepare for your initial consultation with us, we suggest you:
- Make a list of your immediate family members, including dates of birth and relation.
- Identify any former spouses and their addresses.
- Outline your assets and their estimated value, indicating which ones may be jointly owned or insured.
- Note information about any life insurance policies for you or your spouse.
- List ownership in any businesses or investment interests.
- Discuss who you may want to name as guardians, trustees, executors, and durable powers of attorney.
- Discuss your wishes for health care in the event that you become incapacitated.
Taking these basic steps will give our Florida estate planning attorneys a starting point to develop a strategy that meets your goals for the future. You can also trust that we will make the process as easy and painless as possible.
Don’t leave your legacy in the hands of the courts. Take control of what’s yours by developing a solid estate plan that will put your mind at ease and take the burden off your family when the time comes.
With deep roots in Flagler and Volusia counties, our firm is proud to serve families from Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, Deland, and beyond. We are available to meet with you in your home, at our offices, or anywhere else that is convenient for you. Schedule a consultation today.