In Florida, an estate plan provides you a plan for what happens to your assets at your death. Another crucial part of your estate plan, specifically your will, is where one nominates who will be the guardian of any minor children. Although the court will decide what’s in the best interest of the child(ren), having an estate planning document that details your preference in place will hold considerable weight. Estate planning is important for anyone who has legal capacity, whether it may just entail power of attorney or medical care or extend to a full-featured plan, which would include trust and a will. Today with the current situation with COVID-19, it is more important than ever to have a Medical Power of Attorney that permits the use of experimental, non-FDA approved, medications for the treatment of COVID-19.
While preparing a will or a trust is essential, it is also important to consider coordinating beneficiary designations on life IRAs, insurance, retirement plans, and so forth. A will should also includes planning during your lifetime and in case of your incapacity. Often the creation of an estate plan involves an array of topics such as asset protection and qualification for public benefits for the client, or the client’s loved one. Many times, spouses will take it upon themselves to devise a plan online without the proper instruction; let’s go through a scenario.
Here we have Tyler and Debra, who have created a plan with an online package. In this package, they prepare a trust and retitle the brokerage account and house into the name of the trust. The couple also prepares wills. While preparing, each document language states that it will include everything be left to one another at the death of the survivor and divided assets among their three children. Tyler and Debra felt as if they had a great plan in place and that they would have no concerns involving probate. One thing they did not consider is that they could not change the ownership of Debra’s IRA during her lifetime. The first mistake that was made was not checking the beneficiary designations on the IRA. Before Debra married Tyler, she had a boyfriend as a known beneficiary for her IRA. This caused Debra’s previous boyfriend to obtain a bulk of the IRA asset and not her current husband, Tyler. This situation happened even though Debra named Tyler as the primary beneficiary of all her assets in her will and trust. Situations like these happen all the time and demonstrate why it is vital to revisit your plan and make changes to previous beneficiaries.
To help avoid issues like this, an experienced estate planning attorney can prepare documents to change the ownership and beneficiary designations on all assets to make sure the written documents work. Most estate planning documents do not include funding or the retitling of all assets into the trust. We have found that around 90% of clients fail to properly and completely fund their trust. We feel that it is so important to fund estate planning and asset protection plans correctly that we include the funding with many of our estate planning packages.
Some misconceptions people have about estate planning is that its only for the wealthy and/or old, that is not the case. Estate planning is appropriate for many families. Life is unpredictable, and we never know when a tragedy might occur. Estate planning is not just geared toward death but also incapacity and who makes these decisions for us when we are incapable. This is usually why an estate plan includes Durable Power of Attorney for Property, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA power, among other documents. It is essential to revisit your estate plan if new children are in the picture, acquiring more assets, and changes in relationships.
Other questions many have is where to go in order to get this process started? In order to devise a successful plan, you should find an attorney that specializes in their practice in Estate Planning and related areas like Elder Law. Why an attorney is vital in this process is because laws continuously change, and attorneys have information on the new laws that are put in place.