Estate planning is an important task for most Florida residents, although many of them do not get around to starting or completing that task. The process is designed to protect one’s assets while alive, provide for financial survival if one becomes incapacitated, and to distribute assets to the desired loved ones and/or organizations upon death. Other benefits of estate planning include health care proxies and powers that make it easier for one’s health care to be directed by a loved one and for instructions to medical providers.
Some common myths regarding persist and influence people who may be considering estate planning. One myth is that it is all right to put off the process until later in life. Actually, some important benefits can be appreciated by early planning. For example, a married couple can provide for the financial and personal care of their minor children if an unexpected tragedy occurs. Although thinking about such an eventuality is offensive and fearful to most of us, nonetheless if it happened it would be a greater problem with no will and no provisions for a guardian of the children.
Another popular myth is that all one needs is a simple will. That is not true. In addition to considerations of making a living trust, a power of attorney, and health care powers, one must also appreciate that the way property is titled will greatly effect asset distribution at death. For example, if a young couple titles their real estate in the names of husband and wife, as joint tenants or tenants by the entireties, there will be an automatic passing of title to the survivor at the death of the other spouse.
Bank accounts titled in the names of joint tenants may also be worded to pass ownership to the survivor upon the other’s death. Other accounts will pass ownership of the applicable funds to the beneficiary that is named in the account or the insurance policy. Retirement accounts are also generally passed on to the named beneficiary. There are many other considerations that can only be resolved after discussion with an experienced estate planning attorney who is familiar with the federal and Florida laws relevant to trusts and estates.