While many people tend to put off their estate planning needs until they are very old or in poor health, it is important to start this process sooner rather than later. Certain instruments, such as trusts, can even start to distribute assets and property immediately and while the testator is still alive.
The University of Florida published a basic estate planning guide for people trying to get started with their plan in the state.
Checklist to get you thinking about your estate plan
Most of the items presented were formulated as questions to point your plan in the right direction. Start off with basic information about the size of your family, your business interests, properties owned, and any other places you may wish to send money such as a charitable organization. Some steps can also be skipped if someone does not plan to make a given document such as a will or trust.
The first step that was listed is to determine guardianship for any financial dependents. This is normally related to minor children or spouses, but it is an important step to ensure that anyone close to you will be financially protected if you die.
Another important process is to designate beneficiaries for any kind of asset that can be transferred by contract. For most people, this will include bank accounts, paychecks, retirement accounts, and most other finances that were regularly controlled by the person before death.
Healthcare advance directives are also important as someone nears the end of life. These documents will generally say what should be done if the person becomes incapacitated or is close to death. Assigning a healthcare surrogate and making a living will is normally part of this process as well.
Other steps that may be applicable for some families include making an exhaustive list of income, investments, and property, and designating life insurance benefits. This will speed up the legal process at a later time if it becomes necessary to distribute a deceased person’s wealth.
Getting advice that is specific to your situation
Despite these general areas of advice, it is crucial to speak with an estate planning professional about your specific needs rather than trying to do all of this alone. An attorney who deals with this area of the law will be able to guide you in the right direction and make sure all of the documents are executed correctly under Florida law. Keep in mind that if an important document is not done properly, this may affect your entire estate plan.
Local estate planning attorneys can assist you
There are lawyers who focus on trusts, wills, and estates in the areas of Stuart and Port St. Lucie. To get immediate help, contact:
850 NW Federal Highway, #1004, Stuart, FL 34994