Estate planning is not just a process undertaken to plan for the orderly and efficient transfer of assets at death. Estate planning is also life planning. Do you have minor children? If so, your planning should address the support of yourself, your spouse and your children in the event that you become disabled. Your plan should provide a source of funds for your children’s education, daycare and medical expenses, as well as for the regular expenses of running your household. In addition, estate planning encompasses retirement planning and creditor protection planning.
It has been estimated that more than half of all American adults have no estate plan in place. The distribution of their property, the care and custody of their minor children and the identification of who directs the administration of their estate is left to the state of Florida. Florida has very specific rules in place as to how assets are distributed if a person dies intestate, that is, without a will.
What always surprises me is the fact that those people who have invested in an estate plan generally fail to revise or update their plan for up to 20 years. Imagine if you had done your estate plan 20 years ago and never updated it? How different are your financial and personal circumstances now compared with 20 years ago? Would the choices you made, people you identified, and concerns you addressed still be appropriate today? Probably not.
A proper estate plan should allow you to control your property while you are alive and well. It should provide for you and your family if you become disabled. And it should allow you to give what you have to whom you want, when you want and in the way you want, all while minimizing the taxes, professional fees, and costs to be borne by you and your loved ones.
Estate planning can bring peace of mind in knowing that after you are gone, your spouse, children and even grandchildren can enjoy the property you leave to them, free from the claims of their creditors. You may rest easier knowing that a surviving spouse’s subsequent remarriage, a child’s marriage or divorce, or even an untimely lawsuit or bankruptcy, will not disrupt your loved ones ability to use and enjoy their inheritance.
Your estate plan should be reviewed every two to four years. If you do not have an estate plan, or if you do but it is overdue for a review, it would be wise to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney without delay.
Life can change in an instant. What are you waiting for?