Pets & Estate Planning
Beloved Peanuts creator Charles Schultz wisely said, “happiness is a warm puppy.” Whether you’re a cat lover, dog lover, or another furry (or feathered) creature connoisseur, you know how true that sentiment is. Animals, certainly more so than humans, are capable of truly unconditional love. While our pets occupy many of our daily thoughts and tasks, too often they are forgotten when it comes to planning for our futures.
It’s difficult to imagine your pet outliving you, but it’s an important scenario to consider, particularly if your pet is young. Think about where the best place for your pet would be in your absence. If you’d like your pet to live with a family member or friend in the event of your passing, make sure to discuss it with that person and have your wishes reflected in your last will and testament. If entrusting your pet to someone you know is not a viable option, look into a local organization that cares for and rehouse animals to thoroughly vetted people looking to adopt an animal. Make sure to have a designated short-term care person named in your will who can care for your pet before the organization takes possession. This process can take a few days or a few weeks, and you want to make sure your four-legged friend is well cared for during this transition time. As with any wishes in your will, make sure your family is aware of your plans so there is no confusion after your passing.
Do’s & Don’ts
While you may wish you could leave your estate and possessions to the friend who has been with you for your best and worst days, unfortunately the law recognizes pets as property and as such, they cannot inherit any assets. You can, however, set aside a sum of money to go toward a pet’s care. These funds must go to a named individual or organization though and not directly to the pet.
You may also consider outlining a backup plan in your will in the event that your named caregiver becomes unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility of your pet. In general, it’s also a good idea to revisit your will every few years to make sure your wishes are accurately reflected.
Estate planning can feel daunting and complicated, but the attorneys at Wild Felice & Partners have over 40 years of combined legal experience and are well-equipped to guide you through the process. Contact a WFP attorney today to discuss your estate planning options.
How Prenups Affect Estate Plans.
Prenuptial agreements, or “prenups,” can be thought of as a bit controversial, but they are effective tools to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of assets, not only in the unfortunate case of divorce, but also when it comes to estate planning. Prenups are also becoming more popular–according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 62 percent of attorneys said prenups are on the rise, particularly among millennials.
Unless your wishes are clearly spelled out, in some states (known as “community property states”), the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to a substantial portion of your assets. A prenup can more clearly and accurately spell out what portion of the estate is left to the spouse. Prenups can also help decide what property or properties are considered shared or singularly owned. This delineation will help alleviate potential issues that might arise among surviving family members after a spouse’s passing.
Protection From Prior Debts
A prenup can offer protection to the surviving spouse from creditors trying to collect on a debt that preceded the marriage owed by the decedent. Without a prenup, creditors can attempt to collect from the surviving spouse, undoubtedly causing more undue stress and suffering during a difficult time.
Working With a Will
A last will and testament is not always as iron clad as people believe it to be. A will is certainly an important estate planning tool and it can work best in conjunction with a prenup. At Wild Felice & Partners, we can walk you and your family through the estate planning process and help set up a plan that works best for all parties. A last will and testament should be revisited periodically to reflect major life events or changes–such as a marriage or divorce but also birth of a child or grandchild, a significant increase or decrease of assets, a serious illness or injury, etc.
Many couples will wait until after the marriage to work out an agreement, this is referred to as a “postnuptial” agreement. These can function similarly to a prenup, but consult with a lawyer about your state’s laws as many have different requirements for “postnup” agreements.
Prenups are an extremely useful tool in estate planning and work well with a traditional will. If your wishes are not clearly spelled out, shared with family members and reviewed by an attorney, you risk causing a great deal of confusion and turmoil after your passing. Mentioning your wishes to a spouse or sibling doesn’t hold up in court. Contact a WFP attorney today to discuss your estate planning options.
All About Inheritance
As you can guess from the title, this article is all about inheritance. Chances are, if you have received an inheritance (or if you will be getting one in the future), you have a few questions about how the process works. In this article, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of this common estate planning question.
What Is An Inheritance?
Giving and receiving an inheritance has been going on for centuries. It is the practice of receiving titles, debts, privileges, rights, obligations, and private property when an individual dies. The rules of inheritance have changed vastly over time, and they differ from society to society. What we consider inheritance here might not be the same in China, India, or Africa.
Examples of inheritance include bequeathments such as cash, investments (bonds, stocks, etc.), cars, antiques, art, real estate, jewelry, and more. The value can range from the hundreds to the millions, and, in most countries, inherited assets are taxed. An inheritance tax is often nicknamed “the death duty,” or, more colloquially, “the last twist of a taxman’s knife.”
Currently, there are six American states that have inheritance taxes: Iowa, Nebraska, Maryland, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In most of these states, assets bequeathed to a spouse cannot be taxed. And, in some cases, kids are exempt from these taxes. But, if you don’t fit under one of those exceptions, be prepared to get taxed.
What Does Florida Say?
Florida does not have an inheritance tax, nor does it have a gift tax. It also got rid of its estate tax in 2004, and this lenient taxation is why a lot of people move down to the Sunshine State. That said, other states’ inheritance taxes might still apply to you, even if you live in Florida. If the deceased lived in Pennsylvania, for example, and he or she bequeathed something to you, P.A. tax laws would govern. This means that you need to check the laws of the state in which the deceased lived to determine taxation.
As far as the gift tax goes, though Florida does not have it, the federal government certainly does. The federal tax exemption is $17,000 for 2023, and your lifetime exemption is $12.92 million. Remember, you are subject to both state and federal laws.
What A Trust Can Do For You
A trust is a useful tool when it comes to inheritances. If you are expecting an inheritance from someone (or if you are planning to leave one), setting up a trust to deal with these assets is a very good idea. For one, it allows you to pass assets to your beneficiaries without having to deal with probate court. Trusts are a lot like wills, except they avoid state probate requirements, a helpful feature that cuts down on their court expenses.
Below are some of the benefits of trusts:
· A trust protects heirs from your creditors.
· A trust will avoid probate (as aforementioned).
· A trust will give you control of the asset, depending on the type you set up.
· Assets are able to stay in a trust for several generations.
Benefits aside, trusts are not for everyone, and they do come with their disadvantages, such as their costs (this is especially true for a revocable trust). While trusts don’t have the expenses of probate court, making them revocable (and therefore more controllable) can have negative consequences as far as estate duty, stamp duty, and asset protection go.
If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry. When it comes to questions of inheritance, no matter whether you’re bequeathing or receiving, a WFP estate planning attorney can help you. A trust needs to follow certain rules in Florida, and a lawyer will be able to ensure that you dot your Is and cross your Ts when forming one.
When Is The Right Time To Set Up Your Estate Plan?
When it comes to estate planning, there is no time like the present (so long as you’re a legal adult). According to financial experts, the best time to make an estate plan is when you are of legal age at eighteen years old. That said, a lot of eighteen-year-olds haven’t thought twice about heading off to a lawyer’s office to set up an estate plan.
It makes sense, as these teens usually don’t have many assets, and they are often confused about the purpose of estate planning. Most people think of a last will and testament when they think of estate planning, not realizing that there is so much more to it. Let us, in this article, try to convince you to set up an estate plan, no matter what assets you do or don’t have.
What If I Have No Assets?
If you’re low on cash and other assets, don’t worry—so are a lot of Americans. As of 2023, 60% of Americans, including 40% of high-income consumers, live paycheck to paycheck. With the rising cost of living, that’s just how things are for many people.
Estate planning is about so much more than bequeathing assets (though that is an important part, of course). You can use it to set up guardianship papers, manage end-of-life healthcare, and set up a financial decision-maker if you become too incapacitated to handle your own affairs. It doesn’t matter what assets you do or don’t have—this legal field can help anyone.
Other Times to Set Up an Estate Plan
There are plenty of other times to set up an estate plan. Here are some prime opportunities you don’t want to miss:
· New Family Members. If you have kids or grandkids entering the family, that could be a good time to set up an estate plan.
· Savings Accounts. You’ll want to determine who will get your savings account if you die—that’s a good time to start an estate plan.
· Property Ownership. When you buy a home or land, that is a major asset to consider.
· Marriage. Getting married means that you are combining your assets.
· Traveling. If you’re going on a big trip, it is important to ensure you have healthcare directives, guardianship papers, and more set up.
· Inheritance. If you inherit something, that is a major asset that needs to be secured.
· Starting A Business. Estate planning can help you secure your business’ future and protect your assets.
Additionally, it is important to set up guardianship after you have a child, as you want to make sure your chosen guardian is there to step up if something happens. When
you amass more assets, it could be a good idea to then start a trust, which will move some of them into safe keeping for your future beneficiaries.
When To Update Your Estate Plan
So, you’ve made an estate plan, now what? The rule of thumb states that you should go back and update and review it every three to five years. You can go back earlier if you experience a major life change, such as marriage, divorce, new births, new assets, and more. It’s important to keep your estate plan up to date, lest something happen and yours does not reflect your current situation.
There are a lot of milestones and markers when it comes to estate planning, and you should set one up, if you haven’t. Contact a WFP attorney today and explain your financial situation. He or she will be able to help you determine which estate planning tools and documents are right for you.
How To Be Less Stressed During Stress Awareness Month.
We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives, and it might help you to know that April is National Stress Awareness Month. This month brings attention to not only the negative psychological impacts of stress, but the harmful physical impacts as well. Knowing how to manage your stress levels will help you live longer and healthier.
So, what are Americans so stressed about? Luckily, there have been quite a few studies on the causes of stress among the U.S. population. Firstly, according to the American Psychological Association, 44% of Americans say they experience “moderate to high” levels of stress on a daily basis.
NBC News found that 87% of those surveyed who reported stress cited, as of 2022, the rising cost in living. As we all know, the costs of everything from groceries to gas is higher, and it’s no wonder that we are, as the news outlet put it, “besieged by stress.”
Dealing With Financial Stress
These are trying times, to say the least, and you can deal with financial stress through smart planning, consulting with financial professionals (if possible), and talking to lenders. The symptoms of financial stress include:
· Difficulty sleeping
· Feeling fearful
· “Snapping” and getting angry more quickly than usual
· Arguing with loved ones about money
· Withdrawing from other people
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk to someone, as you are not alone. Literally, millions of Americans are going through the same thing. According to Bankrate, you can manage financial stress by:
· Prioritizing what you can control
· Accepting what you cannot control
· Finding secondary streams of income
· Paying essential bills first
· Saving money, if possible (even $10 a month still counts!)
· Tracking your progress in bill-paying
· Having an honest discussion with lenders (don’t just ignore them)
· Being open with loved ones about your financial situation
In addition to these helpful techniques to manage stress, you can also consider estate planning. Though estate planning does involve its own expenses, it is actually one of your best allies in the fight against financial stress.
Estate Planning: How It Helps Financial Stress
Estate planning is a way to determine how your assets will be distributed after you die. There are other essential tools to estate planning too, including documents that manage guardianship, healthcare decisions, protection of assets, and more. Here are some of the ways that estate planning aids in the fight against financial stress:
· You can legally minimize gift, income, and estate taxes
· You can avoid probate court
· Feel in control of your future
· Your assets will go to the right people
· You can plan for end-of-life healthcare
· You can plan for future financial investments and trusts
As you can see, there is a lot of mention of the “future” in estate planning. Most of us are worried about the future—will prices keep rising? What if something bad happens and we can’t cover the expense? The beauty of estate planning is that it helps you get your financial affairs in order, providing a sense of stability and security. Though it is not a cure-all, we all know that every strategy helps in the fight against financial panic.
Hopefully, what you took from this article, in addition to the fact that estate planning can help you breathe easier, is that you are not alone. Everyone is anxiously checking their bank accounts, wincing when they see bills, and having tough conversations with creditors. We’re going through a rough time right now, but, as with every single other rough time in American history, we’re going to get through it together.
Contact a WFP estate planning attorney today to learn how estate planning can help prepare you for the future.
All About Probate Lawyers
Perhaps you’re in a position in 2023 where you have to hire a probate lawyer. Or, maybe you’re just curious about what exactly it is a probate lawyer does. In this article, we’ll explain the ins and outs of probate law, what probate lawyers do, and what to look for in a good probate lawyer.
What Is Probate Law?
Firstly, probate is a court process. It involves gathering the assets of a decedent (a deceased person), using the assets to pay the decedent’s debts, and distributing said assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If someone passes away without a will or trust and has all their assets in their own name, then it is up to the probate court to distribute properties and money. If these assets have joint owners, then probate is not necessary.
Generally, probate follows these steps:
1. A Petition for Administration is filed with various supporting documents, such as a will. If these documents check out with probate court, a Letter of Administration will be sent in response to grant your Petition.
2. Creditors are notified at this phase, and these debtors must file a claim with the decedent’s estate to get paid. If they don’t file a notice, the decedent’s estate could get out of paying the debt.
3. The estate’s personal representative (the same one who filed the Petition and notified creditors) inventories the estate, determining bank accounts, estate valuation, assets, property, and more.
4. The personal representative pays all claims and closes them.
5. The personal representative files an accounting with the courts detailing the value of the estate and what assets it holds after debts have been paid.
6. After accounting is approved, the personal representative distributes the assets according to the will’s instructions.
Above is an overview of the probate process. With that in mind, how can a probate lawyer help you through it?
What Does A Probate Lawyer Do?
Also called an estate attorney, probate lawyers are involved in various ways throughout the probate process, but their main function is to assist and guide the estate’s personal representative. A probate lawyer might take charge of tasks such as:
· Obtaining appraisals
· Assisting in claim payment
· Collecting life insurance proceeds
· Identifying and securing the assets of an estate
· Preparing and filing probate documents the court requires
· Determining if estate or inheritance taxes are owed and paying those obligations
· Resolving any outstanding income tax issues
· Managing the estate’s checking account
· Making final disbursements after debts have been paid
· Transferring assets to appropriate beneficiaries, including handling titling
These are just some of the ways in which a probate lawyer can help you manage your legal affairs. It helps to have a trained professional guide you through probate, as this process is notoriously time-consuming, labor-intensive, and complicated. Going it alone causes more stress than having a lawyer by your side.
Characteristics Of A Good Probate Lawyer.
Not all probate lawyers are created equal. There are those of us in the profession who are reputable and hard-working and those who are, well, not. That said, the Internet is a beautiful thing (sometimes). On it, you can read reviews and do your own research before committing to an attorney.
A good probate lawyer should have, first and foremost, knowledge and expertise. He or she should also be an effective, prompt communicator. Empathy, integrity, and perseverance and three other traits of a good probate lawyer. Make sure to vet your proposed lawyer thoroughly before deciding to become a client of theirs.
Hopefully, this guide will help you in determining whether you need a probate lawyer and who you should consider. If you’re in need of a probate lawyer, contact WFP Law today.
Tips On Choosing A Trustee
Choosing a trustee could very well be one of the most important financial decisions you make in your life, as you’re entrusting this person with critical obligations and responsibilities. That said, not much guidance is out there on what to look for in a good trustee.
We’ve all seen news stories featuring trustees behaving badly and misappropriating property. You have to wonder, were there any warning signs? In this guide, we’ll tell you some “green flags” and “red flags” to watch for when selecting a trustee.
What Does A Trustee Do?
It’s right there in the name—a trustee is a person in a position of “trust.” This term refers to an individual who takes legal ownership of assets held in a trust. The trustee assumes fiduciary duties and responsibility for carrying out the trust’s purposes and goals.
A trustee must manage those assets with diligence. A trust cannot be set up if there is no trustee appointed by the settlor. The trustee, including even a lawyer, who is appointed is entitled to reasonable compensation (usually 1% to 3% of trust assets, though that number varies).
Signs Of A Good Trustee
You, the settlor in this case, have quite the task at hand. Picking a good trustee requires you to find someone you trust to hold and administer the property diligently and reasonably. Here are qualities of a good trustee:
· Honesty. Simple question—does your proposed trustee tell the truth? Honesty about matters both large and small is very relevant to this critical job. You want a trustee that will be upfront about the trust’s assets and what they’re doing with them.
· Dependability. The trustee should be dependable. He or she should show up to meetings, take phone calls, and be a reliable person who communicates effectively and promptly.
· Organization. Being a trustee requires a lot of organization. You need to know dates and obligations and remember pieces of vital information. The more complex the trust, the more you need your trustee to be organized.
· Stability. Is the trustee’s life stable? Does he or she have a steady job? Are they constantly embroiled in personal conflict? Do they struggle with addiction? We all have our own problems, but there is a major difference between a person who is stable and reliable and one who is not.
· Financial Experience. It might be best to pick a trustee with some financial experience, at least when it comes to their own financial affairs. Oftentimes, a
trustee’s position is financially-oriented, so having experience in this sector is a good idea.
· Ability. Does your trustee have the time and energy to devote to this job? He or she should have a bandwidth that can accommodate this critical role.
· Impartiality. A trustee should treat everyone in the trust equally, showing no favoritism, regardless of his or her personal opinions.
These characteristics are all important in a trustee, and you should consider each in turn when appointing someone to this critical role.
Much like there are “green flags” when picking a trustee, there are also major red flags, too. You should, firstly, rely on your gut. Your potential trustee might have all the characteristics above, but, if you have a bad feeling about them, even an inexplicable one, think twice before appointing them.
Here are some common red flags that should bar a trustee from being considered:
· Prior Bankruptcies. Declaring bankruptcy is a big deal, and it means that someone is unable to manage their own financial affairs. This is a major red flag to watch for.
· Prior Foreclosures. Additionally, if your proposed trustee has prior foreclosures, this could indicate issues with money management. For most, their house is their biggest asset—what did this person do to lose it?
· Any Criminal History. Everyone deserves a second chance, but not everyone deserves to be your trustee. Run a simple background check on your proposed trustee, checking court dockets to see if there are criminal cases or lawsuits against them in local courts, whether closed or open.
· Lack Of Neutrality. If your proposed trustee seems to have very strong opinions about those in the trust (if they’re vindictive or a “side taker”), this could affect their impartiality.
· Dishonesty. Of course, the last thing you want is a trustee with a history of lying or obfuscation. Even small lies can easily become big, snowballing ones, especially in the world of finance.
The best way to ensure you’re picking a good trustee is to get some outside perspective. Contact a WFP attorney to decide who should be your trustee, as they can help you make this life-changing decision.
How Divorce Affects Inheritance
February was the month of love, and now we’re moving into March, the month of luck. Alas, you’re neither in love or lucky if you’re getting divorced (well, we guess it depends on your situation), and divorce can affect quite a few financial aspects of your life.
Inheritance, for example, can be affected by divorce. In this guide, we will give you an overview of how divorce affects inheritance and what you can do to ensure your family remains as minimally-impacted as possible.
First, Some Definitions
Before we start on this rather complex area of law, we should provide you with some basic definitions first. These include:
· Divorce. Divorce consists of the process of canceling a marital union, reorganizing legal duties and responsibilities, and dissolving the bonds of marriage between a couple. Divorce in Florida is governed by state law.
· Inheritance. Inheritance includes private property, debts, entitlements, privileges, obligations, and rights that occur upon an individual’s death. In this case, we will be talking about private property (money, land, etc.) that is handed down through Florida’s laws of distribution and descent.
· Marital Property. Marital property is acquired by a couple during marriage, no matter whose name is titled on the property.
· Non-Marital Property. Non-marital property includes that which each spouse owned before he or she got married. This includes property the spouse brought into a marriage and kept in their own name during the marriage.
Is Inheritance Marital Property In Florida?
As it pertains to inheritance, Florida law states that assets acquired separately by either spouse, including assets which are considered inheritance, are non-marital, and separate. Additionally, if you sell your inheritance (assuming it is land or something tangible) and buy anything with proceeds from that sale, that new purchase does not count as inheritance.
During A Divorce, Which Assets Are Protected?
In Florida divorce cases, non-marital assets are protected. Those assets that were acquired while the couple was married are marital property, unless a post- or pre-nuptial agreement states otherwise. Even if a spouse titles marital property in his or her name, this asset is unprotected during a divorce.
Is My Spouse Entitled To My Inheritance If We Divorce?
Because inheritances are considered non-marital property received by a spouse separately through devise, a non-interspousal gift, or bequest, your spouse cannot
inherit any portion of your inheritance. It is considered a non-marital asset and, therefore, off-limits.
Do Ex-Spouses Inherit Anything In Florida?
Divorce effectively cancels out or removes an ex-spouse from a will. This means that if you die and you are completely divorced, your ex-spouse will not be able to inherit anything. That said, if you and your ex are still on good terms, Florida laws do permit a post-divorce designation of your ex as a beneficiary.
How Can A Pre- Or Post-Nuptial Agreement Help Me?
Prenuptial agreements are written contracts a couple enters before they are married. These contracts address each person’s rights, assets, and debt responsibilities if the marriage ends. Prenups, as they are known, can be very helpful to people before they get married, as they could thwart a contentious divorce. They can also protect your assets in the event your marriage doesn’t work.
Postnuptial agreements are contracts a couple signs after they are married. These are similar to prenup agreements, as they outline debts, assets, and responsibilities, but they are not signed until after the couple weds. Again, postnups are very helpful in protecting your assets if the marriage does not work out.
As you can see, this is somewhat of a tricky area of law. Though the law might seem clear-cut, it is important to talk to an attorney to straighten out any inheritance-related issues during your divorce. Contact a WFP attorney today to learn more.
Having A Will Vs. Not Having A Will: What Happens When You Die?
We get it—life gets busy. Though estate planning is a necessity for adults, some view it as expensive and time-consuming. We urge you to look past any preconceived, negative notions of estate planning and focus on your loved ones, as a person who has a will (and an estate plan) is far better-suited to take care of them than one who does not.
In this article, we will focus on the document that is the best-known of all estate planning arrangements: the last will and testament. We will cover what it is and entails, as well as what happens if you die without one.
What Is A Last Will And Testament?
Throughout almost the entire world, distributing the estate of a dead person after he or she dies has been a solemn social custom. The written will is said to date back to the times of Solon, an Athenian statesman who lived centuries ago. Originally, the last will and testament was a device solely for men who died without leaving an heir.
Now, a will is far more widely-applicable, thanks in part to Old English Law straightening out and expanding upon many of the classic rules behind estate disposition. A last will and testament is a legally-binding document that expresses how a person wants his or her assets (their “estate”) distributed after they die.
Assets can include anything from bank accounts to property, and heirs are the intended beneficiaries of the estate of a deceased person. This area of the law is vast and detailed, and different types of wills and applicable rules abound.
That said, in Florida, a will must abide by these rules:
· A will must be signed by a testator (the person making the will), and he or she must be mentally-competent and over the age of eighteen.
· The will must be typed or handwritten; you cannot have an oral will in Florida.
· The testator’s signature must be at the very end of the will.
· There must be two competent persons there to witness the will.
· The will has to be signed by everyone in the same room, and these individuals must sign the will at the same time.
In Florida, the law is followed strictly when it comes to wills. That is why it is important to talk to an attorney to have a valid will executed properly. Missing any one of the steps above can lead to a will being rendered invalid.
What Happens If You Die Intestate?
When we say “intestate,” we refer to dying without a last will and testament or other document to govern the distribution of your property. In Florida, if you die unmarried, the Florida Intestacy Statutes give all of your property to your kids. If there are no children, your estate goes to your parents.
There are many different disadvantages of dying intestate. Namely, you will have to go through probate court, a lengthy, time-consuming, privacy-invading court process. Here are other “cons” of dying intestate (there are no “pros”):
· You don’t get to leave the assets you want to the people you want to inherit them. Dying intestate takes away your choice in that matter. As a result, descendants may be unfairly disadvantaged or advantaged.
· You can’t nominate your own guardian for your children or an executor for your will.
· The estate’s distribution may be delayed if there are conflicts between beneficiaries. This isn’t unheard of in intestacy cases, as there is no will to clearly lay out the deceased’s wishes.
· You don’t get to make use of legal estate tax minimization.
Dying intestate takes away your freedom of choice—your estate is left in the hands of the government, and the courts may make decisions about your assets, kids, and pets that, were you able to choose, you would not have made.
Hopefully, the article has reinforced the need to have an estate plan, lest you die intestate. Contact a WFP estate planning attorney today to learn more about setting up a will and, if applicable, other legal arrangements.
Estate Planning: It’s Not Just For The Wealthy
One of the most common misconceptions we hear frequently about estate planning is that it is only useful for millionaires and rich celebrities. Just the word “estate” might conjure up visions of mansions, private jets, and limousines. Happily, this misconception is not true, and estate planning is for anyone who has assets (so, pretty much every adult in America).
In this article, we will talk about who should have an estate plan, the benefits of estate planning, and how you go about setting up an individualized estate plan.
Who Is Estate Planning For?
The answer to this is simple: every adult should have an estate plan. According to CNBC, two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan, with 40% saying that they simply haven’t gotten around to creating one. 33% said they do not have an estate plan because they don’t feel as though they have enough assets, and the remainder said that they’ve eschewed estate planning because it is too costly.
It will be far more costly to not have an estate plan after you die, as dying intestate leaves your assets in the hands of the court. Probate is a long, expensive process that pays off your creditors first and gives your family what’s left, if anything. More than likely, this is not the way you want to see your estate distributed.
If you’re young and don’t have many assets, you’ll probably only need a few simple items, such as a will, beneficiary designation, and both financial and medical powers of attorney. If you have kids, you’ll have to name a guardian in your estate plan. Those who are older with more assets, particularly those who have health issues, may need a more expansive estate plan. Estate plans are not one-size-fits-all; each estate plan is tailored to its creator’s personal and financial lifestyle and situation.
The Benefits of Estate Planning
There are plenty of benefits of estate planning that will encourage you to “get around” to making one. These include:
· Estate planning minimizes the delays, expenses, and privacy invasions that so often accompany probate court.
· Your assets go to the right beneficiaries when you have a properly-executed estate plan.
· Estate planning allows you to plan for your end-of-life care, which is especially beneficial for those who want DNR agreements and other special, personal arrangements.
· You can arrange trusts and plan for the future of your accounts and investments, ensuring your financial legacy goes on.
· You can designate a trusted executor for your last will and testament.
· Guardianship for minor children can be arranged through an estate plan, ensuring that your kids have a stable future even if the worst comes to pass.
· If you own a business, estate planning will ensure its future after you’re gone (including if you want to sell it posthumously).
· Lastly, estate planning can help you legally minimize estate taxes after you die.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to have an estate plan. In the next section, we’ll talk about how you can set one up.
How To Set Up An Estate Plan
Luckily, this part is pretty simple. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call an estate planning attorney. He or she will help you determine what documents you need in your estate plan, setting up you and your loved ones for a smooth transition, should something happen to you.
You might be tempted to create your own will by using a “DIY legal service.” While this might seem convenient (and cheaper), it can cause a lot of issues, as the law is very technical and finicky. It’s easy to miss an important element or requirement when creating an estate plan, and this omission can to a lot of trouble in court.
No matter who you are, you need a plan for what happens after you die. Dying intestate only lengthens probate, putting your loved ones through an expensive, time-consuming court process that will, most likely, benefit them very little. Contact a WFP attorney today to learn more about how to create an estate plan.