Humans are the only species who live with an understanding of our mortality. That knowledge is sometimes uncomfortable, but it gives us an opportunity to plan for our legacy and how we want the assets that represent a lifetime of achievement to be passed on after we’re gone.
Whether you’re young, in your middle years, or beyond, this is the best time to begin planning to ensure that your family will be taken care of according to your wishes, regardless of the size of your estate.
When planning for the distribution of your estate, the first thing you need to do is make an inventory of what you own: bank accounts, real property, investments, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and business assets. Then, in keeping with Florida law, you will determine who your heirs are and who will receive which assets upon your death. You will also name the person you want to be in charge of your finances and who will be charged with making medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Sometimes one of the most important aspects of planning for the distribution of your estate is reducing its size. To ensure that your heirs will be able to take ownership of your assets tax-free, you need to make sure it doesn’t exceed the federal estate tax exemption. Your estate planning attorney can discuss strategies to reduce your estate through gifts and trusts to avoid taxes when the amount exceeds the exemption.
Naming your heirs and determining who will receive which assets is one function of your will. If you have minor children, an equally important function is naming guardians for them in the event of both parents’ death. For many younger families, this is a primary reason for writing a will.
A living will or medical proxy allows you to let your wishes be known in the event you are incapacitated by an illness and are not able to make certain medical decisions for yourself. Your advance directive can make your wishes known on issues such as whether you wish doctors to take certain measures to extend your life if you are terminally ill, or if you wish to donate your organs. You can determine the person you want to handle your financial affairs if you can’t by means of a power of attorney.
Trusts allow you transfer assets that would otherwise become part of your estate to keep the value of the estate below the federal tax exemption, avoid gift taxes, and allow your assets to be distributed without the involvement of a probate court. A trust may also protect your assets from lawsuits and creditors.
If you want to use part of your assets to benefit a worthy cause, you might donate to a charitable gift fund or community foundation. Your investment appreciates tax-free, and you can choose the charities you want to benefit—now after your death.
Effective estate planning can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of Florida law. Using an experienced estate planning lawyer to advise you and draft all the required documents can ensure that your wishes are met.
The lawyers at Gorman & Jones, PLC, in Apollo Beach can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your heirs will be cared for according to your wishes, and that important end-of-life decisions have been made.
Call the estate planning attorneys at Gorman & Jones today to begin responsible planning for your family’s future.
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