The most common method to distribute your property to your loved ones, charities, or other beneficiaries is by means of a Last Will and Testament. A will also provides the ability to appoint a guardian or conservator of your minor children, in the event you die before your minor children reach the age of eighteen years. Additionally, a will also provides the ability to name the Personal Representative of your estate, which is the person who will carry out the terms of your will upon your passing. Having a will is a one method of protecting your loved ones upon your passing and ensuring that your assets are distributed pursuant to your wishes.
Under Florida law, a Last Will and Testament needs to go through the probate process. Probate is the legal process of establishing the validity of a will in a court of law and qualifying the person who you have appointed as the Personal Representative to administer your estate according to your will. Although Florida has created a special, streamlined probate process for estates valued under $75,000.00, called Summary Probate Administration, the probate process can still be a lengthy and expensive process. Lastly, as of 2019, if your estate is valued above $11.4 million after adjustments, your estate will also be subject to Federal Inheritance taxes.
Every person who passes away in the State of Florida has a Last Will and Testament, regardless of whether they created one during their lifetime. This is because of the laws of intestacy. These laws state that if a person dies without a will, the State of Florida will step in and write your will for you and your assets will be distributed under Florida’s laws of intestacy. Under Florida’s intestacy laws, at least half of your assets with be distributed to your spouse (if you have one) and then to your children. If you have neither, your assets will be distributed to your nearest living relatives, including your parents, your siblings, your grandchildren, and other relatives. It is imperative for you to contact a probate attorney if your loved one dies intestate. Lastly, if you have no living relatives at all upon your passing, the State of Florida will inherit your assets.
A Last Will and Testament is only one of many methods that can determine how your assets transfer to your loved ones upon your passing. Depending on your personal circumstances and wishes, however, it may or may not be the best estate planning option for you. Since a Last Will and Testament only controls assets subject to probate, a will cannot avoid the probate process. However, if probate avoidance is a main goal in your estate planning needs, a will alone may not be the best option for you. It is important, therefore, to contact an experiences estate planning attorney who will be able to discuss the best options for your estate planning needs and the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
If you live in the Tampa Bay Area, the experienced estate planning attorneys at the law firm of Gorman & Jones, PLC can answer all your estate planning questions. Our law firm specializes in estate planning and elder law matters, which make our attorneys skilled and experiences to handle all facets of your estate planning needs. As such, our estate planning attorneys can explain the advantages and disadvantages of a Last Will and Testament in relation to the other estate planning options and will give you honest advice as to whether a Last Will and Testament is the best option for you.
If you own real estate, Florida law makes it possible to transfer your real estate to your beneficiaries using a special instrument called a Ladybird Deed, or sometimes referred to as a “Beneficiary Deed.” By using a Ladybird Deed, you can transfer your real estate upon your passing outside of the probate process. In some instances, combining a Ladybird Deed with a Last Will and Testament can eliminate the need for a trust as a probate-avoiding means, however, it can often be more complicated. The estate planning attorneys at Gorman & Jones, PLC can explain the benefits of a Ladybird Deed as a part of your estate plan and create one for you if it is appropriate.
One important function of a Last Will and Testament is appointing a guardian and conservator for an individual’s minor children. Parents of young children will use their will to appoint the individual(s) who will care for their children in the event of the death of both parents. This person may be a close relative or a friend. In rare cases, a conservator is separately appointed. A conservator is the person who handles a minor child’s finances until they reach eighteen years of age.
The only thing that is certain in life is uncertainty. While a person may be in good health today, life has a way of letting the years take their toll. Many people become physically or mentally incapacitated in the later years of their life and will need to depend on others for their everyday care. A will is one way to appoint a guardian for yourself, as you are able to name the person you wish to care for you in the event the need for one may arise. A will is also one way to appoint a conservator in the event you become incapacitated. A conservator is the person who will manage your finances for your benefit if you are unable to do so for yourself. The person who you appoint as your guardian and you conservator may be the same person, or they may be different people. The choice is ultimately your decision when you plan for it in your will.
Our estate planning attorneys at Gorman & Jones, PLC have the expert advice necessary to give you the peace of mind necessary to ensure you and your loved ones are prepared for whatever the future may hold. Call our office today at (813) 856-5625 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Tampa Bay estate planning attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs.
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