A Florida estate planning checklist can not only help you to keep things in order while you’re going through the estate planning process, but it can also help to ensure that you don’t overlook something crucial.
Florida Estate Planning Checklist: What Are You Forgetting?
Take an Inventory of What You Own
The best way to begin your estate planning process is to take an inventory of what you own. This is helpful when it comes to leaving specific assets to specific beneficiaries. It’s also helpful because it provides the executor of your will with a list of your assets, something that is necessary for the probate procedure.
Set Up Automatic Transfer of Title Ownership
If any of your assets have title documents – for example, the deed to your home – it’s best to plan ahead to have that title pass directly to a beneficiary upon your death. Automatic transfer of ownership can be set up by having a title document indicate that ownership is set up as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, as tenants by the entireties, or as community property.
The “transfer on death” agreement serves to keep the asset in question out of the probate procedure, rather, it automatically transfers ownership of that asset from you to the beneficiary upon your death.
We should note here that setting up any asset under joint ownership does give that second owner of your property rights over that property. So, for example, if you own a home and you set up joint ownership of that home with your girlfriend or boyfriend, it also means that should you want to sell your home in the future, you must have the permission of that person to do so. This can be an issue if, for example, you break up with that boyfriend or girlfriend at a later date and want to sell your home.
Name Beneficiaries For Specific Assets
Now that you have your transfer of title ownership taken care of, it’s time to look at other assets in your estate that do not have a title. These types of things may include family heirlooms, jewelry, bank account contents, etc.
Physical assets can be bequeathed to beneficiaries directly through your last will and testament. These items are often items that have personal value, are family heirlooms, or are simply items that you would like a specific person to have upon your death.
Financial assets like bank account contents, stocks, bonds, etc. are usually set up by creating a “pay on death” designation with the financial institution in question. This then establishes with that financial institution that upon your death, the contents of the account would be paid to the named beneficiary. Unlike a “joint ownership” agreement, the “pay on death” designation does not give a beneficiary any rights to or control over the contents of a financial account until the time of your death.
It is important to note here that cryptocurrency can also be transferred to a beneficiary and most cryptocurrency institutions have a “transfer of ownership” protocol built into their system. If you deal with cryptocurrency, it’s important to set up this transfer of ownership and to let the beneficiary know about it ahead of time. Digital currency often goes unclaimed by family members when this transfer is not set up, this is simply because they have little understanding of how digital currencies work. Many cryptocurrency owners also neglect to incorporate their digital currency into their estate plan because they assume that family will know what to do to access these digital assets – this is usually far from the case!
Set Up Trusts
Make sure to set up any trusts that you want to put in place. We’ve talked about trusts here previously, but to quickly recap, a trust is an agreement which leaves assets to a beneficiary by way of a third-party trustee. Trusts are usually set up by parents who want to leave assets to their children, but who want to ensure that their children are responsible enough to use those assets responsibly. For example, a parent of a five-year-old who is planning their estate may set up a trust that holds a college fund for their child that is overseen by the child’s grandparents. This ensures that should the parent die tomorrow, the child will still have money to go to college, but that money will be managed by a responsible party.
The parent in the example above may also use a trust to ensure that certain conditions are met in order for the child to receive a certain asset. So, the parent may also have $200,000 saved which they intend for their child to have upon their death. However, the parent wants to ensure that their child goes to college, so they may establish a trust which states that the child may not receive that trust until they graduate from an established college program. Until the time that the child graduates, that trust would be managed by the trustee – or in our example, the grandparents of the child.
Living Trusts are another type of trust to consider. A living trust allows you to designate a beneficiary for specific assets by transferring the title to those assets to a beneficiary while you are still living and naming yourself as a trustee. This allows you to maintain control of that asset until your death or your incapacitation, at which time your beneficiary would manage that asset. A living trust can be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable living trust means that at any time you (the trustee) can revoke the rights of the beneficiary to manage an asset. An irrevocable living trust means that you may not at any point revoke the rights of the beneficiary named in the trust.
Insurance is a crucial tool in estate planning because it can take care of expenses and debts that may be incurred by your incapacitation or death. Look into life insurance, burial insurance, credit card insurance, homeowners insurance, disability insurance, etc. All of these plans can help to take care of financial burdens that may arise in various circumstances and prevent your heirs from having to cover these expenses themselves.
ALWAYS consult a professional when it comes to insurance plans to make sure that you get the right plan for your needs and that you are not paying too much for the plan you choose.
Get The Official Documents
Work with an estate planning attorney to write your last will and testament, to set up a financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, and a living will. These legal documents outline your wishes for every eventuality and it’s important to work with a reputable attorney to ensure that they are completed correctly.
Create a Folder For the Executor of Your Estate
To help smooth the probate process, it’s advisable to create a folder of information for the person you have named the executor of your estate. Inside this folder, you want to include the inventory you created in the steps above, a statement of your desires, and any information that they may need to carry out your final wishes and to ensure the easy transition of assets (for example, passwords, account numbers, locations of institutions, etc.)
A Final Note
The Florida estate planning checklist above should be used as a tool to help you through the estate planning process. This checklist should not be used as a substitute for consulting an estate planning attorney. You MUST consult an estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate will be properly processed upon your death or incapacitation.
Why is an estate planning attorney so important? Because estate planning requires a variety of legal documents to be drafted and signed. These documents MUST be processed correctly according to state and local regulations or you risk the integrity of your final wishes.
Gathered Everything You Need For Your Florida Estate Planning Checklist and Need Help With Those Official Documents?
If you’ve got everything you need to get those official documents in order, but you need help from an attorney to ensure that everything is done in accordance with Florida law, Weidner Law can help. Located in St Pete, Florida, Weidner Law specializes in assisting Florida residents with their estate planning needs and fighting for consumer rights. Call today to see how attorney Matthew Weidner can help you! 727-954-8752