by Estate Planning Attorney Nydia Menendez
Everyone has an Estate, including you. But what exactly is an Estate? It’s everything you own, and everything that is left when you pass away. Estate Planning, then, is having a plan in advance to ensure that when the time comes, your wishes are carried out with respect to matters related to your health, your person, your children and grandchildren, and, yes, your assets.
1 – The Most Basic Form of Planning
The most obvious aspect of Estate Planning is planning for our own death, which is why Estate Planning is a universal need.
Planning for death involves the distribution of assets. This means you provide instructions stating to whom you want to leave your assets, what you want them to receive, how you want them to receive it, and when they should receive it. You will obviously want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs. Your Estate Planning should take all that into account.
2 – Planning for Incapacity
But Estate Planning is much more than simply planning for death and the distribution of assets. It should also include planning for the very real possibility that at some point during your life you may not be able to manage your own affairs. Statistically, 70% of persons over the age of 65 will experience some form of incapacity, so failing to plan accordingly leaves a big gap in planning.
3 – Choosing Who Will Manage Your Affairs
A crucial part of any planning is determining who will manage your affairs, how you will choose this person or persons, and having contingencies.
It is possible that the person you would prefer as your first choice may not be available for whatever reason. They may be traveling, incapacitated themselves, deceased, or no longer willing to serve, which is why it’s important to name an alternate person, just in case. In fact, I always recommend listing at least three options, in order of preference.
4 – Tailoring Your Plan to Your Unique Situation
A good Estate Plan must be tailored to your unique facts and circumstances, and address the specific needs of your family and each of its members.
When you plan, you are giving those you love the valuable gift of protection for generations to come. The decisions you make by creating an Estate Plan become part of the documents we prepare for you. This means you will remain in control, and your life lessons, stories of your experiences, and words of wisdom can be preserved for generations to come.
5 – Protecting Your Beneficiaries’ Inheritance
Another important part of planning is the management and preservation of your beneficiaries’ inheritance. For example, in Florida, minors cannot own property valued over $15,000. This means that leaving any significant wealth to minors would require the courts to be in control if you don’t plan. But even more tragic is the fact that when the child turns 18, the courts will release the property to them. In our experience 18-year-olds and wealth are often not a good combination.
With proper planning you could protect your children’s/beneficiary’s inheritance in the event of the following situations:
- Your spouse remarries after you pass away.
- The beneficiaries are not mature enough to receive the fruit of your life’s work.
- They have creditors who could garnish or lien their assets.
- They divorce, which could jeopardize up to half of their inheritance.
- They struggle with any addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling, spending, etc.
Having a proper Estate Plan can guarantee that beneficiaries will not squander all you worked so hard for, nor will they put their lives in greater danger.
Lastly, if any of your children or beneficiaries have special needs which would entitle them to receive government benefits, making them a beneficiary could jeopardize those benefits. Having a special needs trust in place will avoid this potentially serious consequence.
6 – Getting Started
If you want to learn more about how Estate Planning applies to you, we invite you to call our office at (954) 963-7220 to speak with a member of the Menendez Law Firm who can help you navigate the process of creating your Estate Plan. Additionally, you may want to watch the video series on our YouTube channel, where we cover a variety of relevant topics and frequently asked questions. You can also join us for the next live Estate Planning webinar on Zoom by registering at no charge on our website: www.menendezlawfirm.com
Estate Planning Attorney
Menéndez Law Firm
2699 Stirling Road, Suite B200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Tel.: (954) 963-7220
Fax: (954) 963-7232