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Why do I need an estate plan?

Now that the New Year is hear, many individuals will make resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, find a new job, take up a long neglected hobby, and so on. But there’s one thing everyone should put at the top of their to do list for 2017: estate planning.

Surely, no one wants to start the new year thinking about dying or the possibility of becoming ill, but like the song says, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Without further delay, let’s take at look at some estate planning options for the coming year.

Create or Update Your Will

If you don’t have a will, now is the time to put one in place. This document declares how your assets will be distributed after you die. Without a will, the court will make this decision in accordance with Florida law. For those who have a will, changes may have occurred in your life that need to be reflected in your will: marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, the acquisition of property or other assets.  All of these events make it necessary to update your will.

Establish a Trust

Depending on the size of your estate, many individuals can benefit greatly by establishing a trust. A trust can be created within the will itself, such as to name a trustee or manage assets for the benefit of minor children. Also, you can create a revocable living trust that takes ownership of your assets that will be managed by the trustee. The benefit of a trust is that is does not have to be probated, and the distribution of your assets will remain private. In addition, there are different types of irrevocable trusts that can help you plan for a child with special needs or for your long-term care (a Medicaid Trust).

Plan for Incapacity

In addition to planning for the distribution of your assets after you die, it is also crucial to prepare for the possibility of becoming ill or being injured in an accident. First you need to create a power of attorney that designates a trusted person to act as your agent in the event you become incapacitated or are unable to manage your personal and financial affairs. Your agent is responsible for paying your bills, managing your financial accounts and real estate assets and the like.

In addition, it is also vital to create advance medical directives such as a power of attorney for healthcare (or healthcare proxy) and a living will. A healthcare proxy allows another person to make  decisions about the type of healthcare you receive if you unable to do so or cannot speak for yourself. A living will (not to be confuses with a Last Will and Testament) is a document that establishes your preferences for life prolonging treatment, such as a ventilator or feeding tube, if you are terminally ill and cannot communicate.

The Bottom Line

Many individuals put off planning their estate until it’s too late. With this in mind, make your New Year’s resolution to get your affairs in order by engaging the services of our experienced estate planning attorneys.