As the year comes to an end, families all across the State of Florida are meeting with attorneys to “get their affairs in order.” There are many valid reasons to plan for the futures of your family and loved ones. I have provided the five most common reasons that families are now looking to do estate planning:
- To Minimize or Avoid Probate. Most people cringe at the thought of their families having to deal with lawyers, a Judge, and this court-supervised process after their death. A great number of people utilize proper planning to avoid the cost, delay, and hassle that is often involved in the probate process. The most commonly utilized tool for the avoidance of probate is the revocable living trust (RLT). The RLT can provide for a trusted friend, relative, or other person to handle your affairs immediately after your death, without the need for any court supervision or Order.
- To Avoid a Guardianship Proceeding. Should the time come that you are not able to make decisions for yourself, or you become incapacitated in any way, your family may need to sue you in a Florida circuit court to receive a judicial determination that you are not competent to care for yourself. Many Florida residents are proactive in ensuring that they do not put their loved ones through a guardianship proceeding. Some of the most common ways to avoid the necessity of a judicial guardianship process are utilizing a durable power of attorney, a trust, and/or advance health care directives.
- To Make Things Easy For Family. Anyone who has been involved with a lengthy and contentious probate process can understand probate’s potential to cause extreme stress and familial disharmony. Making things simple for your family and loved ones when you die is often the greatest inheritance they could ever receive.
- Avoid Losing Life Savings to the Nursing Home. Many Florida seniors worry about losing their hard-earned savings to a nursing home. There are ways to protect savings and investments from the costs of nursing home care; however, time is of the essence. You need to plan well in advance to protect your assets.
- To Keep Control of Who is in Charge. Most people would like to be able to decide for themselves who they trust to manage their affairs in the event of their incapacity or death. Estate planning keeps you in the proverbial driver’s seat in this regard. In Florida, you may take certain proactive measures to ensure that you choose who will handle your affairs. If you do not properly designate a person or people to handle your affairs, you may be left with a Florida court making this decision for you.
There are many reasons that people choose to plan for the future; everyone is different. There is no “one size fits all” approach to estate planning. The one thing that is true for most everyone, however, is that we will never know the exact time and circumstances of our deaths or potential incapacities. There is no such thing as “too early” when it comes to estate planning, but there is clearly a “too late.”
-Robert M. Baldwin, Esquire