Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Largo, Clearwater & St. Petersburg FL
Many people mistakenly believe that they don’t need to plan for their properties and assets. Perhaps they think that estate planning is only needed by wealthy seniors or affluent families who have a substantial inheritance to pass on. Or perhaps they don’t feel the importance of planning now – they might put off consulting with a lawyer until it’s almost too late.
In truth, anyone who owns something should consider planning for their estate. Whether you are a single professional who has just started saving, a married couple with shared properties, or a senior who is thinking about your family’s future, you’ll want to set up some legal structures regarding how your estate will be protected and managed through the years.
What Is Estate Planning?
Simply put, estate planning is making legal arrangements for the protection, management, or passing on of your estate in the future.
When people talk of estate planning, they might think of wills and trusts. These documents are indeed two of the most commonly used estate planning tools. But your estate plan can be more than just your last will. It can be a comprehensive combination of legal tools to encapsulate exactly what you want to happen to your estate, whom you want to manage them, and whom you want to benefit from them.
Why Do You Need An Estate Plan?
It is especially important to have an estate plan in place during our senior years. This is a time when we must think about a future that we may no longer be able to manage ourselves. Today, while we are still able, we have the opportunity to arrange the most favorable version of that future, whether it’s for ourselves or for our loved ones.
A smart estate plan is your most concrete way to:
- Protect what you own. You have spent your life working and saving. Safeguard your hard-earned estate from unwanted interference by legally expressing your specifications before disputes occur.
- Protect your family. What kind of future do you envision for your spouse and children after you have passed? How are your loved ones provided for in the event that something bad happens to you? You can anticipate these scenarios and prepare favorable arrangements for your loved ones, using your estate for their benefit.
- Provide specific care. Do you have a loved one to whom you wish to provide particular care? It could be a family member with special needs, or a small child needing a particular person as guardian. Such significant specifications can be implemented through your estate plan.
- Plan for yourself. You can plan for future difficult situations, such as if you become disabled or severely ill. Your strategy can include how your finances are managed, who makes legal decisions for you, and how your healthcare is sustained.
- Smoother future for everyone. Since your estate plan already lays out your desired arrangements, there is little room left for conflicts and arguments. Your family and anyone else involved can avoid legal disputes, saving them much time, money, and energy.
Remember, you can create an estate plan anytime – even if you don’t have massive wealth, even if you don’t have children, and even if you are only planning for yourself. Don’t wait for legal complications to start cropping up. At the very least, talk to a reliable attorney to see how you can anticipate well for the future.
Estate Planning Tools
Here are some basic estate planning documents you can use:
Last Will And Testament
There are various types of wills, and the Last Will and Testament is one. In this document, you express your wishes for when you pass on.
In this type of will, you express your plan for end of life decision making. Your Living Will provides you with the right not to be kept artificially alive and to die with dignity.
A trust is a legal agreement authorizing a third party – the trustee – to hold your assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. You would typically use a trust if, for instance, your children are too young to manage your transferred assets themselves. Your trustee would hold the assets for them until they are of age.
There are many kinds of trusts for various purposes, and the most common is the revocable living trust. It is revocable because you can change or undo it, and it is “living” because your assets are placed in the trust during your lifetime.
Durable Power Of Attorney
This is essentially your authorization for a non-lawyer person or organization to legally manage your affairs. There are various powers of attorney to suit various needs. For example, you may authorize a trusted friend to handle your finances, business, or healthcare. The most common is a Durable Power of Attorney which designates someone to handle your financial affairs even if you become disabled or lose capacity.
Estate Tax Planning
Federal law imposes several specific taxes that apply when you are transferring your assets. These were historically called death tax or inheritance tax. Today, they are legally called Estate Taxes, Gift Taxes, and GSTT or Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes. Together, they comprise the Unified Transfer Tax. With a knowledgeable lawyer, you can plan to minimize the impact of this unified tax during your estate transfer.
These five documents are only some of the components you can use in your estate plan. Other tools include asset protection, guardianships and conservatorships, healthcare directives, Medicaid planning, and beneficiary deeds.
Which estate planning documents should you use? How do you start your estate plan? Talk to attorney Ted Schofner to see what tools are best for your circumstances, preferences, and goals. Mr. Schofner is an experienced lawyer who has effectively helped numerous seniors in Florida. Call The Schofner Law Firm today at 1-800-891-9996 or reach us through our online contact form.
2117 Indian Rocks Road, Largo, FL 33774
Mr. Schofner is licensed and admitted to the Bars of the State of Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.
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