For a Florida lawyer, estate planning is a major part of the job. Working so much in the field of estate planning offers a unique knowledge of the inner workings of “the system” and how to best plan an estate. Today we want to talk a little about some of the lesser-known estate planning tips that we think everyone should know!

Florida Lawyer Shares Lesser Known Estate Planning Tips

1. Your Backup Plan Should Have a Backup Plan

When you plan your estate you may get frustrated at just how detailed your estate planning attorney asks you to be, but there is a reason that they do this. The more information that is available to guide the probate process and to instruct what should happen to your property upon your death, the better. Once you’re dead and gone, there’s no way for you to add a “P.S.” to that will!

Being thorough doesn’t just mean outlining every detail of who gets what and what goes where, it also means creating a contingency plan…or two. Unfortunately, few people update their Last Will and Testament as often as they should. This sometimes means the death of a named beneficiary or heir. If the person who is now deceased (or as we say “who predeceased you”) can obviously not claim property that has been left to them. In this instance, that property will likely be bundled into the estate and divided among heirs UNLESS you have a clear backup plan in place. So, if you have sentimental items or items that you feel would be of great use to certain individuals, be sure to make a contingency plan or two to keep this item from being sold and the proceeds from being divided up among the beneficiaries of your estate.

2. A Living Will Should Always Be EXCEPTIONALLY Specific

If you think your living will is too specific, the chances are that it’s not specific enough. There are endless possibilities and requests that can be made in a living will and it’s important that your requests are as specific as you need them to be. Unfortunately, this can mean a number of unpleasant discussions and considerations, but keep in mind – this is what is going to dictate your medical protocol should you be unable to do so yourself. With that in consideration, document everything to the letter!

If you’re not sure how to write your living will or what to include in it, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with your family doctor as well as an estate planning attorney. Advice from both of these people will help you to put together the most thorough document for your needs.

3. Talk To Your Attorney About Tax Implications

There are various tax implications to how you set up your estate plan. Most people want to minimize the amount of tax that their heirs must pay on properties, assets and other items that are left to them. There are multiple ways to do this depending on what you own and how it is set up in your plan for your estate. The best way to minimize any financial burden left to your heirs is to have an estate planning attorney help with the setup process. Consulting a financial advisor is recommended as well.

Keep in mind, however, that your attorney and financial advisor can both only help you within the limits of the law. It is unfair and unethical to ask them to do otherwise and if they offer to do otherwise…well, it’s time to start looking for a new attorney or advisor!

4. Regularly Review Your Estate Planning Documents

Your estate planning documents control what happens to everything you own once you die and any number of events can alter how you want your estate to be divvied up among your heirs. While it is possible for your heirs to argue that your will was not current at the time of your death, this complicates things unnecessarily. Generally, the court goes by your last valid will, so it’s crucial that you keep this up to date. We recommend reviewing and updating your will with your estate planning attorney at least once a year as well as anytime you experience a lifechanging event.

For example:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Death in the family
  • A birth
  • Adoption
  • Moving
  • Making a large purchase
  • Purchasing an additional property
  • If someone in your family is injured or incapacitated and requires your fulltime care or supervision.

5. Double Check Your Accounts

Whether you only own a bank account or whether you own a bank account, a stock trading account, an IRA, etc. it’s crucial that you have a beneficiary listed on each of these accounts. It’s also crucial that you make any information accessible to these individuals upon your passing. It’s generally not recommended to offer up this information beforehand!

As we mentioned above, you may want to list more than one beneficiary for specific accounts by including a “backup” option in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to accept the asset being given to them.

In Summary

To be brief: in order to get the most out of your estate for your heirs and beneficiaries and to ensure that all of your wishes are carried out as you wish, you need to consult a reputable estate planning attorney.

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