Most people forget that estate planning is as much a part of life as it is of death. In fact, planning for your death should never be too far from your mind as you go through life’s major milestones – marriage, having children, and for some, divorce.
Properly planning for your eventual passing is one of the best parting gifts you can give to your family members. It can also be a way to set certain goals for yourself in the present – for example, planning for your ideal retirement age or ensuring your spouse is left financially secure. We’ve set out some of the basics of estate planning below to help you get started.
When Should You Start Estate Planning?
The simple answer to this question is now! You’re never too young or old to start thinking about what you want to happen to your assets after your death.
Typically, estate planning begins with the essentials: a last will and testament and guardianship arrangements for your children (if you have any). However, as you grow older, you may want to introduce further elements to this plan, such as giving certain relatives Powers of Attorney to deal with specific matters on your behalf or creating a living trust.
It’s important that you get the basics right and then work with your estate planning attorney from there to tailor arrangements to suit you and your family’s needs as you go through life’s changes.
Planning For the Disposal Of Your Assets
It’s useful to begin by creating a list of all of your assets (including those which have low monetary value but which may be of sentimental value). You should consider who you want these to be left to when you’re gone and whether you want to attach any conditions to these bequests in your will. Remember, your last will and testament will be the bedrock of your estate plan.
Having an estate planning attorney to help you draw up a will that clearly and comprehensively spells out your wishes will help to avoid family disputes and ensure that your estate does not need to go through lengthy probate proceedings in court. Your will should also name the personal representative of your estate, who will be responsible for carrying out the administration and dissolution of your estate after your death.
If you would like to try to avoid probate entirely, you can consider setting up a living trust instead, in terms of which a trustee is appointed to manage your property and affairs after your passing. Living trusts are also a good option to consider if you have minor children and want to ensure that they can be supported by your estate immediately after your passing.
Protecting Your Children
If you have minor children, it is especially important that you get your affairs in order. What would happen to them if you and your spouse both died tomorrow? Although these possibilities are unpleasant to think about, it is important they be cared for. If you have minor children, you should strongly consider establishing a guardianship with the help of an estate planning attorney.
There are two types of guardianship. Whereas ‘guardianship of the person’ relates to appointing a trusted individual to make residential, educational, and healthcare decisions for your child, ‘guardianship of the property’ relates specifically to financial decisions. You should think carefully about who you wish to nominate to be your children’s guardian and speak to them beforehand to confirm they are comfortable with this nomination, as it is a big responsibility.
Specific Powers of Attorney
Unfortunately, death is not the only eventuality that you need to consider. It is also important to make provisions for possible mental incapacity. Who would you trust to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate or suffer from severe Alzheimer’s?
Including a healthcare power of attorney as part of your estate plan allows you to appoint a person who will make medical treatment decisions on your behalf. These provisions should be included as part of your living will, which is a document that sets out your wishes if you become incapacitated.
Similarly, you should also decide how you want to manage your finances should you become mentally incapacitated or are no longer of sound mind. The person you appoint will need to make investment decisions, pay bills and run your affairs properly on your behalf.
Looking For a Trusted Estate Planning Attorney in South Florida?
There are many factors to take into account, regardless of where you are on your estate planning journey. Whether you’re about to retire or are just entering the workforce, seeking the advice of a trusted will and estate planning attorney is the surest way to achieve peace of mind about what will happen to your assets and loved ones after your passing.
We at the law offices of Gary I. Handin, P.A. have assisted many Floridians on this journey – give us a call at 1-877-815-4560 , and we’ll gladly help you too!