It’s officially a new year, and that’s a good time to do some estate planning.
Consider it part of your early Spring cleaning. However, instead of cleaning out the old closets, you’re cleaning up what happens when you pass away. If you already have a will, start by making sure you know where it is – and you should also make sure it’s the original will.
In Florida, the original will is required.
Otherwise, your loved ones have to go through a separate process to validate the will. A petition must be filed with the Court which outlines the basic terms of the will. Two witnesses must provide written testimony to validate the terms of the will. It’s a lot of work that can be avoided with some basic estate planning.
Once the will is found, review it to ensure that it contains the correct information. Are there any missing beneficiaries? Are the persons you want to use as personal representatives still able to serve? Do they want to serve? Also review if you have new beneficiaries. Are they minor children? Does a trust provision need to be added? Within a will, you can ask that certain assets be held in trust. This is especially helpful if there are grandchildren or others who are younger than age 18.
In the alternative, you may find that it’s best to establish a revocable trust now.
Revocable trusts are used by many who have more significant assets. You can bypass probate by placing your assets into the trust. Upon your death, the trust assets can be transferred to your intended beneficiaries. Pick a reliable and trustworthy person as your trustee, as that person is accountable to the beneficiaries. Consult an attorney before choosing whether to use a will or a trust, as every family situation is different.
Another item to consider is updating your living will, or healthcare surrogate. This person is responsible to determining your healthcare if you are incapacitated. Ask yourself some hard questions: Are the right people listed? Do they live close by? Do they want to serve? Answering these questions now will prevent headaches later.
I have handled a considerable amount of estate planning over the past 19 years, and highly recommend that people review their wills on an annual basis. A little advance planning now can reduce considerable problems later. So make it a New Year’s resolution. And on behalf of our firm, we hope that you have a safe and happy New Year!!