The Importance Of An Estate Plan

This is the time of year when families come together to enjoy each other’s company and reflect on how special those people are to you.  It is also a time to plan for your life, estate and giving.  It is important to have a plan in place or have your existing plan reviewed every few years.  Life changes, relationships change, and the importance of those people in your life can also change.

The importance of an estate plan is evident when you hear stories of people who did not have a Will, a Trust or any sort of estate plan to make provisions for their family, friends and relatives.  Below are some of the top practical reasons for getting your affairs in order:

  1. TO NAME A GUARDIAN FOR YOUR MINOR CHILDREN.  A Guardian is the person who you choose to raise and take of care of your children until they reach the age of 18.
  2. TO NAME WHO GETS YOUR ASSETS.  Many married couples are surprised to learn that a surviving spouse will not always get their spouse’s estate.  Second marriages or unmarried couples may not get what they expected when children are in the mix.  A Will or Trust is the only way to help insure your wishes are followed.
  3. TO USE A SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST.  A person who is disabled or impaired risk losing their Federal, State or Local benefits if they inherit a sum of money or a stream of income from a relative.  A Special Needs Trust can be created to help supplement the needs of the beneficiary without losing the benefits already in place.
  4. TO MAINTAIN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR FINANCES.   Personal and financial information and the security of that information is of the upmost importance to people.  Because of the internet, digital and cyber security, we are living in a time of needing security and privacy.  Trusts created in Florida are not a public document and can protect your information and keep it private.
  5. TO AVOID GUARDIANSHIPS FOR AN ADULT.  Guardianships through the Probate Court become necessary when planning is not done.  There are many individuals that become permanently or temporarily incapacitated at some point. Without a Power-of-Attorney or a Trust, family members, including a spouse may find themselves having to obtaining a court Guardianship over that incapacitated person’s estate to manage their health needs and financial needs.  A Power of Attorney or Trust is easy to create and far less costly than Court to handle your affairs privately during incapacitation.
  6. TO PLAN FOR LONG-TERM CARE.  There is nothing more expensive than an extended medical expense or nursing home care.  It can derail your perfectly budgeted financial plan and carefully designed estate plan.  Long-term care planning may help guarantee funds to cover the cost and protect the estate plan that you have in place.
  7. TO MAKE END OF LIFE DECISIONS AND PLAN FOR END OF LIFE CARE.  Executing an Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to authorize another person to step into your shoes to advocate for you when you cannot advocate for yourself.  This person follows the decisions you made and can work directly with your medical doctor.  It allows you to be in charge of the decisions for your future by choosing the person who will act for you.
  8. TO PLAN FOR INHERITANCE.  If you are lucky enough to have a large estate,  meaning your assets are over 5.45 million in 2016, you can help your family or beneficiaries defer or avoid payment of estate tax through skillful gift, trust and estate planning.

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