Whether or not you currently have estate planning documents, one important item to add to your calendar is getting an estate plan checkup.
Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your to-do list.
Why? Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated. How do you like the idea of a probate judge you never met, making decisions about how you live your life? Just look at what happended to Buzz Aldrin just months before celebrating the 50th anniversary of his walk on the moon. Had he put in place a proper estate plan, with the appropriate advance directives in place, many thousands of dollars and lots of family relationships could have been avoided.
Then, your property and your loved ones may end up in a time-consuming and expensive probate proceeding after you die. Making sure your cover all the details in your plan, and implementing all of those details, is incredibly important. We just closed a probate estate that started three years ago. The deceased man owned a significant company with millions in annual revenue and 28 employees. He failed to transfer ownership of his company to his trust. So, the business went through probate. Three years later, the net from the liquidation of the business was less than one years revenue. The personal representative of the estate could not find a buyer within the time frame imposed by probate rules. All of the creditors of the business knew they could buy the assets for pennies on the dollar in the probate proceeding.
Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to have any estate planning done, then the State of Florida will essentially write one for you. It most likely won’t divvy up your property the way you would have and certainly will not protect your heirs the way you would. In Florida, if you die without a valid last will and testament, or revocable living trust, the State of Florida requires in its intestacy statute that your spouse gets all of your assets, unless you have children from a prior marriage. In that case, your spouse gets half and your children from the prior marriage get half of everything you own at death.
A common misconception is that estate planning is only necessary for wealthy people. But this simply isn’t true – anyone with a bank or retirement account, a home, or a family needs to make a plan for what happens if they become incapacitated or when they die. Of course, the complexity of the plan will vary depending on your circumstances, but all estate plans should be put together with the help of an estate planning attorney who is experienced with the legal formalities required to create a valid will, trust, designation of health care surrogate, HIPAA release, and a power of attorney in Florida. The Florida power of attorney statute change dramatically in 2011. If yours was signed before 2011, it will probably be totally worthless when it is needed.
Even young families need an up to date estate plan. Imagine going on vacation and leaving the kids at home when they are young. Now imagine that one or more of the kids wake up sick, or have an accident and need medical care. Who has the authority to make medical treatment decisions for the minor kids? No one! Unless you have completed and put in place a "designation of health care surrogate for a minor child." Then the person you have designated can make medical decisions for your children while you are on vacation or traveling for business.
How Old Is Your Estate Plan?
Do you already have an estate plan?
If you do, then please pull your documents out of the drawer, dust them off, and look at the date you signed them.
Were your documents signed in the 80s or 90s, or, worse yet, before 1980? If so, please run, don’t walk, to an estate planning attorney, because your documents are terribly out of date and need to be updated as soon as possible.
Did you sign your documents between 2000 and 2009? Aside from the federal estate tax exemption jumping from $675,000 to $3,500,000 during that time period, state estate taxes disappeared in many states. Because of the significant changes in federal and state estate taxes, documents from this time period may be out of date and need to be tweaked in some shape or form.
Did you sign your documents between 2010 and 2017? Federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes went through major changes during these years, and “portability” of the federal estate tax exemption between married couples was introduced. Unfortunately, while your estate planning documents may only be a few years old, they very likely do not take advantage of the opportunities made available from recent changes in federal tax laws. And, it’s not just tax laws that are changing – modifications to state laws governing wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney may warrant some revisions to your estate planning documents as well.
And last but not least, regardless of what year you signed your estate planning documents, think about all of the changes in your life since you signed them. Did you get married or divorced, have a child or two or a grandchild or two, or move to a new state? Did you sell your business, retire, have a significant change in assets, or win the lottery? Any major changes in your family or financial situation will certainly have an affect on your estate plan. Do you love your children, but don't find their choices for their spouses quite as trustworthy as you would have chosen for the children.
Estate Planning Is Not a One Shot Deal
Estate planning is not a static event that you can grudgingly do once and then forget about it. On the contrary, estate planning is a continuing process, because life is a moving target that is full of constant change: Your estate plan needs to change as your life changes.
We are here to help you navigate the changes that have occurred since you had your estate plan prepared and ensure your wishes are still being carried out as you envisioned. For those needing an estate plan, we are here now and in the future to mold your estate plan as you move through the various stages of life.
Let us help you achieve peace of mind by knowing that you've taken care of all of the issues you possibly can. That you have documents that provide for your current circumstances, not what was the case 20 or 30 years ago. Call us and schedule your appointment here in Palm Coast at 585-7004. We can help you and your family achieve peace of mind!