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Estate Planning

What Is Estate Planning?

Many people think that estate planning is something only the very wealthy need. However, estate planning is not about how much money you have—it’s about making sure that you maintain control over your assets while you are alive and that these assets are distributed to the right people, in the right way, at the right time. In short, estate planning is about preserving your financial legacy.

Estate planning is a process by which a person designs a strategy and prepares documents to conserve, protect, and distribute estate assets before and after their death to family members, loved ones, charities, and other organizations. Critically, these plans must take into consideration state and federal taxes and administrative laws and regulations.

Even smaller estates will have valuable assets that require protection. But individuals often fail to appreciate the full size or value of their estates and what could happen to those assets if there is no plan in place.

Of course, the larger the estate the greater the need for proactive planning becomes so you can avoid the array of tax and probate administration issues. Whether your estate is complex or more modest, your ability to direct, protect, and preserve your financial legacy depends on having a comprehensive estate and asset management plan in place.

Our Planning Process

We develop a unique Financial Legacy Blueprint™ just for you to can help you protect and preserve your wealth.

The Benefits of a Comprehensive Estate Plan

Florida families want to protect their wealth and ensure that wealth passes on to their heirs and beneficiaries smoothly with the lowest tax burden possible. An estate plan allows you to accomplish this goal in a manner that best suits your family’s needs.

Proactive estate planning provides a range of critical benefits:


Minimization of Estate Taxes

Many methods exist for you and your family to mitigate federal estate and gift taxes through proper Trust Planning and Gift Planning.


Probate Avoidance

You can avoid the costly and public probate process, which will spare your family stress, keep your affairs private, and ensure your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes.


Asset Protection

Special techniques allow you to shield your valuable assets from creditors, lawyers, malpractice claims, foreclosures, or disaffected family members.


Family Support

Your family circumstances may profit from setting aside resources to care for dependents with government benefits, special needs children, or pets.

Healthcare Directives

You can outline specific directions for your healthcare should you become disabled, your end-of-life care, and your last rights and burial.


Business Succession

Incorporating a business succession plan into your estate plan ensures a smooth transition of your business to the next generation with minimal interruptions and maximum value.


Dispute Prevention

A fulsome estate plan will account for an array of future scenarios so your family will not become embroiled in disputes or potential litigation over your assets.

Estate Planning for Beginners

If you are approaching estate planning for the first time, it’s important to understand that “estate planning” encompasses the relationship between four things:

  1. The default state laws,
  2. How you own your assets (i.e. asset titling),
  3. Your beneficiary designations, and
  4. The legal documents defining and supporting your plans.

Coordination of these four components is vital to a functioning estate plan.

For example, Florida has intestacy laws that determine how, when, and to whom your assets will be distributed if you die without a will. You can override those default laws with proper legal documents, such as a last will and testament. However, non-probate assets such as jointly owned property or those with beneficiary designations pass by “operation of law” (i.e. outside of your will).

In other words, even if your will states that your son should receive your home and life insurance proceeds, if the house is jointly owned with a spouse and that spouse is the designated beneficiary on your life insurance policy, your son will get neither of those assets.

Basic Estate Planning Documents

While there are certainly a variety of planning options available to suit each and every family’s circumstances, a basic estate plan needs five things:

  1. Last Will and Testament,
  2. Revocable Trust,
  3. Living Will,
  4. Power of Attorney, and
  5. Healthcare Surrogate.

As you are preparing to work with an attorney to craft a comprehensive estate plan, you should consider a couple of central issues:

  • Beneficiaries: Reflect on the relationships you have with your family and others who are close to you (or those who aren’t!). Beyond your direct nuclear family or close extended family members, consider other important people and organizations in your life. Perhaps there are schools, charities, or religious institutions that are essential to you. Maybe you have pets that you love and want cared for.
  • Deciders: Your healthcare surrogate and power of attorney are critical to ensuring your wishes are observed even if you become incapacitated or die. You will want to appoint trustworthy individuals who will be capable of making the tough financial and healthcare choices. You can also designate a personal representative to administer your estate after your death.
  • Assets and Wealth: In assessing your asset portfolio, you might include insurance policies, stocks, bonds, and real estate. But don’t overlook assets with purely emotional value. You also ought to consider how your assets are titled. If you are a business owner, do you have partners or investors? How assets are titled affects how they will transfer and to whom.
  • Timing: Think about how you would like your assets to be distributed and when. Do you prefer an outright distribution? Would you prefer assets be placed in a trust? Should the distribution wait until after your death or do you want to put assets aside right now?

This is only a basic list of the estate planning topics to consider.

Advanced Estate Planning Options

Depending on your unique financial goals, additional planning options are available to fine-tune your estate plan. After consultation with your estate planning attorney, you may find that more detailed Trust Planning is needed to mitigate exposure to estate taxes, protect assets from creditors, or provide for special needs family members or pets.

For individuals and families with significant asset holdings, it may also be prudent to discuss various Asset Protection Planning techniques. An asset protection plan shields your hard-earned and valuable assets from creditors, predators, lawsuits, and disaffected family members.

Do I Need an Estate Plan?

We believe that the majority of Florida families ought to have some form of estate plan in place regardless of the size of your estate. The scope and details of your estate plan will depend on your specific family and financial circumstances, but a properly designed estate plan can address a plethora of concerns and objectives that you and your family might have.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if you need an estate plan:

  • Do you care about who inherits your property?
  • Do you want to determine your own end-of-life healthcare treatment?
  • Are you the parent of minor or disabled children?
  • Do you have pets that you love and want cared for after your death?
  • Do you want to avoid the public proceedings involved in the guardianship and probate processes?
  • Do you want to reduce the unnecessary legal burdens on your family who are already grieving your loss?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, then you should discuss your estate planning options with an attorney.

Do I Really Need an Asset Protection Plan?

Are you unsure whether your specific financial goals and family circumstances would benefit from an asset protection plan? Take our short, simple quiz to find out.

Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan?

Importantly, estate planning is not a one-and-done event. Rather, it is iterative and must be reviewed periodically to ensure it continues to match your financial goals and life circumstances.

The following situations are all prime examples of reasons to update your estate plan:

  • Life Events: Important personal milestones or major family events such marriages and divorces, the birth of a new child or grandchild, or changes to intra-family dynamics.
  • New Assets: Considerable reorganization or additions to your asset portfolio including real property, stock holdings, retirement accounts, or insurance policies.
  • External Events: Uncontrollable factors like changes to economic, political, global, environmental, or legal circumstances.

Should You Update Your Estate Plan?

Are you worried your estate plan might be outdated? Unsure whether you would benefit from an update? Our short, simple quiz will help you decide.

Our Estate Planning Process

No family is the same, so it makes sense that no estate plan should be same either. Your estate plan should fit you like a well-tailored suit, with it changing to accommodate you, not the other way around.

Our estate planning process is built on understanding you and your financial goals. Only then do we develop an individualized estate plan for each client based on these goals. Our estate planning process has two main parts:


Financial Legacy Review

A fulsome estate plan will account for an array of future scenarios so your family will not become embroiled in disputes or potential litigation over your assets.


Financial Legacy Blueprint

Once we know “the what,” we can build a framework for how to achieve your goals. To craft your Financial Legacy Blueprint we will explore the full range of financial and retirement strategies that are available to you.

During the estate planning process, we will consider five key areas that will impact your financial legacy:

  1. Probate Avoidance Strategies,
  2. Asset Protection,
  3. Wealth Management,
  4. Trusts and Asset Distribution, and
  5. Income and Estate Tax Planning.

After we have drafted all the supporting documents based on your Financial Legacy Blueprint, we will schedule a time to review and execute all the necessary documents.

financial legacy blueprint

Pro tip: Because there are so many areas to consider and because each family’s financial situation is different, online forms are usually bad ideas. Fill-in-the-blank legal documents can never provide the level of cohesion and protection that you need. Learn More.

Take the First Step

Proactive planning is critical to ensuring that your financial legacy is secure and that your family and assets are protected. We urge you to take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your family, and your hard-earned assets and wealth. Whether you need to develop your first estate plan or update your existing plan, we can help.

We can help take the fear and frustration out of the process. Call us today at (561)998-2362 or fill out the confidential form below to schedule your free Financial Legacy Review now.

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