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It is never too soon to start the estate planning process. If you are at least 18 years old, there are aspects of estate planning which you should put in place right away, even if you have no assets to speak of, and do not have children. Estate planning assures that your wishes are carried out if you die or become incapacitated, and it can help your loved ones avoid all kinds of red tape, expenses, conflict, and difficult decisions.
People often think of estate planning as planning for what will happen after you die. While it does cover that, it also provides for you during life, should you become incapacitated.
Estate planning lets you create a durable power of attorney which authorizes someone you trust to handle your affairs. You can set it up as a springing power of attorney so that it only takes effect if and when you become incapacitated. The power of attorney can be very specific as to what the person can and cannot do on your behalf. You can also create a medical power of attorney authorizing someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Without these powers of attorney, your loved one may have to go through the process of getting a court-appointed guardianship for you, which can be expensive and time consuming. In the meantime, no one will have access to your money and accounts to do basic things like pay bills.
A living will, or directive to physicians, declares your wishes when it comes to healthcare choices such as whether to be placed on life support, and can save your loved ones from making heartbreaking decisions or wondering what you would want them to decide.
Other Estate Planning Basics
Some of the other basic of estate planning include:
- Last will and testament
- Revocable living trust
- Pet trust
- Special needs trust
- Estate tax planning
- Designating a guardian and establishing a trust for your minor child
- Creating “pay on death” or “transfer on death” accounts, and other devices to avoid probate
Probate With and Without a Will
In Florida, your estate goes through probate whether you have a will or not. It is very important to have a will so that you choose how your property will be distributed. If you do not have a will, you are said to have died intestate and your property will be distributed according to Florida’s intestate succession laws.
Even with a will probate can be a lengthy, difficult, and costly process. Your loved ones will be forced to wait to receive their inheritance. Devices such as living trusts, pay on death accounts, and life insurance with a named beneficiary, do not go through probate and go directly to the named beneficiaries.