Florida Estate Planning 101

Creating a proper estate plan in Florida isn’t difficult – as long as you use the right attorney. We asked Sarah E. Peart, an attorney from Tampa Florida whose practice focuses mainly in the areas of wills, trusts, estate planning and real estate law, to provide consumers with a basic lesson on estate planning in Florida. Here’s what she told us in a recent interview:

Who needs an estate plan in Florida?

Everyone should have an estate plan. Most people tend to put off planning for the future because it can be difficult, time-consuming, and, for some, even an emotional process. However, it is essential to have a plan in place to protect you, your loved ones, and of course, your estate assets. Unfortunately, you just never know what is going to happen and delaying planning only exposes you and your loved ones to great risk. I sometimes joke with my clients that if they have an estate plan in place, it greatly reduces the risk of anything happening to them in the near future!

What documents are typically included?

Common documents that would be included in an estate plan are typically a will, a trust if necessary, a durable power of attorney, a healthcare surrogate designation, a declaration of pre-need guardian and a living will and/or advanced care directive.

When should you create a Florida estate plan?

While everyone should have an estate plan, you should always create one or update it when any major life changes occur, such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child or grandchild or retirement. It is also a good idea to make sure you have a current plan in place before traveling, if your domicile has recently changed (from a different state or country), or if you are experiencing any other life changes such as suffering from illness. Your plan certainly needs to be reviewed if there is a substantial change in your wealth or the assets of your estate (such as purchasing real property or inheriting money or other assets).

What are the consequences of not having an estate plan in Florida?

If you don’t have an estate plan, you die intestate (without a will) and your estate would have to be administered through the probate court system. Your estate would be devised to your heirs at law as provided for by law. As a note, probate (which wills are subject to as well,) can be a very expensive, time-consuming and very emotional process and it may be advisable to avoid it whenever possible, depending on your estate circumstances and needs.

Estate planning is a very specific area of law that encompasses wills, trusts, health care directives, probate and more. To contact an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer to discuss your situation, please click here.