Estate planning, defined by the Department of the Interior as the collation of several key legal documents that specify what to do with an individual’s assets once they become incapacitated or pass away, plays a key role in ensuring that a person is able to safeguard their own interests while also providing a way for them to proactively care for their loved ones even once they are no longer able to look after their needs on a day-to-day basis. While drafting estate planning documents on one’s own initiative and recognizance is possible, many individuals opt to work with an experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning and can aid individuals with selecting the most appropriate documents, drafting them, and then, maintaining the total estate plan and making changes to update the individual documents as needed. Learn about the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney and discover how a Florida estate planning lawyer from Loughlin Law, P.A. can help individuals organize their affairs by calling (561) 677-8384.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?
Estate planning lawyers are those attorneys whose specialty is end-of-life or incapacity planning. They help educate their clients on how to effectively plan their estates and outline for clients’ benefit the laws impacting probate fees, disbursement, and transfer.
Precisely how estate planning lawyers help their clients varies depending on the individual client’s circumstances, but these legal professionals typically assist with the following tasks:
- Creating the client’s Last Will and Testament
- Assisting with identifying suitable trusts to use and helping to set them up to safeguard and transfer assets during the client’s lifetime and after they pass away
- Setting up durable powers of attorney, in addition to advanced healthcare directives
- Identifying a client’s beneficiaries, and ensuring that estate planning documents such as wills and trusts are properly drafted so that assets can be transferred in accordance with the client’s intentions
- Collaborating with other financial professionals, like tax professionals and financial advisors, to mitigate tax burdens on the client’s estate through constructive tax planning
- Developing strategies for reducing the number and amount of estate assets that must go through the probate procedure
What Is an Advantage of Having an Estate Plan?
Establishing a well-thought-out estate plan presents several benefits, but perhaps the most significant is its ability to protect an individual’s beneficiaries by stating which of a decedent’s assets to transfer and to whom. If an individual does not have an estate plan, they cannot dictate exactly what happens to their assets, which, depending on their situation, could include real estate, stocks, and business holdings. In the absence of a clearly communicated estate plan with a valid Last Will and Testament, the probate court determines who receives the decedent’s assets. Court-supervised estate administration can be a costly, time-consuming process that can cause multiple arguments among family members and other loved ones, potentially resulting in litigation.
Often, a person’s beneficiaries are their children and, alongside ensuring they receive their assets either directly or through a trust, a decedent can use estate planning to protect any surviving minors by naming guardians who they feel will act in their children’s interest. Without estate planning documentation, the court appoints these individuals instead, and there is a risk that the guardians appointed by the court may not be the ideal choice for this role. Explore the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney in more detail and find out how a seasoned Florida estate planning lawyer can help people get their affairs in order by arranging a consultation with Loughlin Law, P.A.
What Are the Two Most Important Purposes of Estate Planning?
In addition to beneficiary protection, estate planning has several other key purposes, two of which are avoiding probate and providing incapacity safeguards. Below is more information concerning these estate planning purposes:
Establishing Incapacity Protection
Coupled with benefiting a decedent’s survivors, estate planning can also provide key safeguards to an individual while they are still alive in the form of incapacity protection. Sound estate plans include documents that protect individuals when they can no longer make critical life decisions because of their age, an injury, or illness.
The two main types of incapacity protection include the following:
- Powers of attorney: Also known as a POA, these are legal authorizations enabling another individual, called an agent, to act on behalf of the person, known as the principal. Depending on the POA type, agents can receive limited or lasting authority to decide on matters concerning the principal’s medical care, finances, property, or investments.
- Advanced directives: Living wills or advanced healthcare directives are legal outlining instructions concerning a person’s medical care preferences, intended to guide the choices made by caregivers and doctors in the event of the individual’s incapacitation.
Another key estate planning role involves minimizing or avoiding probate of the decedent’s estate, thereby maximizing the value of the assets transferred to the beneficiaries. Prudent estate planning can help to ensure that assets avoid the court supervised probate process in Florida. For instance, an individual could establish a revocable trust designed in such a manner that the funds and assets deposited into it are not subject to Florida probate proceedings.
Why Are Wills an Important Piece of an Estate Plan?
Wills are legal instruments that outline a person’s preferences regarding the distribution of their assets of their own death. In many cases these documents address the “disposition of remains” –– what should be done with the deceased person’s body –– as well. Wills typically nominate a trusted individual, called the executor, to carry out the wishes of the testator (the person making the will). The benefits of establishing a will are as follows:
- Provides an opportunity to precisely outline who gets specific assets and the proportion they receive
- Can explicitly exclude certain individuals, such as estranged relatives, from obtaining the decedent’s assets
- Specifies who will look after surviving minors rather than letting a court decide
- Can make it easier and faster for a person’s beneficiaries to receive any assets left to them
Is Estate Planning Important?
Estate planning allows people to create tailored plans that suit their specific circumstances. Common examples include individuals who have surviving family members with health issues or who struggle with managing money creating trusts to provide for their struggling loved ones while also ensuring the trust maintains its overall value for as long as possible.
Contact a Florida Estate Planning and Probate Attorney Today
As suggested by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, effective estate planning enables people to arrange their affairs in a manner that aligns with their wishes, such as by making charitable gifts, distributing property, and indicating how their beneficiaries can use the assets left to them. Having a sound estate plan could also help reduce the stress encountered by a decedent’s loved ones, since they will know exactly how the deceased person wanted their affairs to be handled. Understand more about why hiring an estate planning attorney can be beneficial and explore the legal options available for those who want to arrange their affairs by contacting a Florida estate planning lawyer from Loughlin Law, P.A. at (561) 677-8384.