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A proper estate plan to provide for the needs of your family may include:
● An adequate Will or Trust;
● A list identifying your assets;
● A Living Will (a medical power of attorney enabling someone to handle medical decisions if you cannot do so) and a Durable Power of Attorney (enabling someone to handle your financial matters if you cannot do so);
● Final instructions of your preference (burial and/or cremation wishes).

If you already have an estate plan, it should NOT be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, may change. Estate plans should be reviewed at least every three years but, additionally, any important change in your life demands immediate review. These changes might include:
● Birth, death, marriage, divorce or disability of you or a beneficiary;
● Large increase or decrease in the net worth of you or a beneficiary;
● Substantial change in the type of your assets;
● Change of residence to another state;
● Change in tax law.

A "Living Trust" is a trust that you set up during your lifetime. The most common purpose is to avoid probate of your assets when you die.

When you set up a Living Trust, you must transfer ownership of most of your assets from yourself to your Living Trust. For example, title to your home and your investments are transferred from yourself to "the John Doe Living Trust.” The person who controls the assets of the trust is called the "trustee," and the person or people who receive the benefits of the trust property are called the "beneficiaries." Initially, you can be both the trustee and the beneficiary of your Living Trust, so you retain full control over the trust property. This is similar to transferring your assets to a corporation, where you are the president, and the only shareholder. When you die, the Living Trust continues to own the assets, so they do not have to go through probate. Instead, the trust directs how the assets will be administered after your death, much like a Will.

The advantages of a Living Trust include:

● Avoiding Probate: If all of your major assets are put into your Living Trust before your death, your estate does not have to go through probate. Without probate, your affairs can be settled more quickly, and with less cost. Living Trusts are especially helpful if you own property in other states, because probate might otherwise be required in each state.

● Privacy: Probate documents are public records, so your Will, a list of your heirs, and in some cases an inventory of your assets are available for anyone to read and copy. Your affairs can be settled more privately if you have a Living Trust.

The disadvantages of a Living Trust include:

● Administration: As mentioned above, in order to avoid probate, most of your assets must be transferred into your Living Trust. This involves a deed of your real estate, and changing the name on your bank accounts and investments from your name to “John Doe, as Trustee of the John Doe Living Trust.” If you own a lot of different stocks, and you (rather than your account representative) have possession of the stock certificates, each stock must be individually transferred to your Living Trust. However, if you do not buy and sell stocks and bonds frequently, or if they are held by an account representative in a custodial account, then the administration of a Living Trust is relatively simple.

● Initial Cost: Unlike a Will, which does not take effect until your death, a Living Trust takes effect as soon as you set it up. Consequently, there is more work involved for your attorney, so the fees are more than if you just have a Will.

If you do not have a Will or a Trust and have not used other probate-avoiding techniques, upon your death, your assets will pass according to the laws of the state which has jurisdiction over your assets. The "state plan" may not provide for those you desire to obtain your assets.

It’s a phrase estate planning attorneys hear practically every other day. From the client’s perspective, there’s no reason to do anything complicated, especially if it might lead to higher legal fees. Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “simple” estate is all too often rife with complications that, if not addressed during the planning process, can create a nightmare for you and your heirs at some point in the future. Such complications may include:

Probate – Probate is the court process whereby property is transferred after death to individuals named in a will or specified by law if there is no will. Probate can be expensive, public and time consuming. A revocable living trust is a great alternative that allows your estate to be managed more efficiently, at a lower cost and with more privacy than probating a will. A living trust can be more expensive to establish, but will avoid a complex probate proceeding. Even in states where probate is relatively simple, you may wish to set up a living trust to hold out of state property or for other reasons.

Minor Children – If you have minor children, you not only need to nominate a guardian, but you also need to set up a trust to hold property for those children. If both parents pass away, and the child does not have a trust, the child’s inheritance could be held by the court until he or she turns 18, at which time the entire inheritance may be given to the child. By setting up a trust, which doesn’t have to come into existence until you pass away, you are ensuring that any money left to your child can be used for educational and living expenses and can be administered by someone you trust. You can also protect the inheritance you leave your beneficiaries from a future divorce as well as creditors.

Second Marriages – Couples in which one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship should carefully consider whether a “simple” will is adequate. All too often, spouses execute simple wills in which they leave everything to each other, and then divide the property among their children. After the first spouse passes away, the second spouse inherits everything. That spouse may later get remarried and leave everything he or she received to the new spouse or to his or her own children, thereby depriving the former spouse’s children of any inheritance. Couples in such situations should establish a special marital trust to ensure children of both spouses will be provided for.

Incapacity Planning – Estate planning is not only about death planning. What happens if you become disabled? You need to have proper documents to enable someone you trust to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated. There are a myriad of options that you need to be aware of when authorizing someone to make decisions on your behalf, whether for your medical care or your financial affairs. If you don’t establish these important documents while you have capacity, your loved ones may have to go through an expensive and time-consuming guardianship or conservatorship proceeding to petition a judge to allow him or her to make decisions on your behalf.

By failing to properly address potential obstacles, over the long term, a “simple” will can turn out to be incredibly costly. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable insight and offer effective mechanisms to ensure your wishes are carried out in the most efficient manner possible while providing protection and comfort for you and your loved ones for years to come.

The following methods are often used to avoid probate (sometimes this is useful, and sometimes it is counterproductive): joint tenancy title, joint bank accounts, pay on death accounts, life insurance proceeds, retirement plans, gifts made during life, life estate deeds.

Under Florida law, inheritances are the separate property of your child. So his spouse has no rights in or to the inheritance. Of course, what your child does after he receives the inheritance can change what was once his separate property into a marital asset. The most typical example is where the child who receives the inheritance places the assets into a joint bank account. Once he does that, it may not be his separate property anymore. So the best approach is to make sure he doesn't commingle these newly received assets with the joint assets of he and his spouse. Certain types of Living Trusts can help greatly in preserving these inherited assets as separate property.

For the appointment, please bring your most current available bank and/or brokerage account statements, property deeds, long term care insurance policy and any existing Last Will and Testament, Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy or Living Will.