William A. Johnson, P.A. William A. Johnson, P.A.
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Melbourne, Florida, Trust, Estate Planning And Probate Law Blog

An estate plan helps you protect yourself: Here's how

Estate plans have an important role. They protect you when you're at your most vulnerable. In fact, one of the most valuable reasons to have an estate plan is to plan for your own needs.

While most people think of estate plans as ways to establish what they want to leave behind for their loved ones, they should also think about them as ways to protect themselves if they're hurt or impaired in a way that does not allow them to make decisions on their own behalf.

Stop family fighting with estate planning

In an ideal world, Florida families would come together to grieve the loss of a loved one and respectfully follow the wishes of an estate plan. Unfortunately, most people do not live in an ideal world. For those living with complicated family situations, estate planning can feel difficult or even impossible. Here are a few ways to address difficult issues through an estate plan.

Family dynamics can be complicated. Sibling rivalries between adult children are particularly problematic. A deep sense of loss after a parent's death combined with money and inheritance on the line can exacerbate old childhood rivalries. It is a good idea for parents to discuss their plans with children ahead of time. This will give children the opportunity to discuss any concerns with their parents as well as time to process any decisions they are unhappy with.

Don't let estate planning myths get in the way of your plans

It is no secret that misinformation and myths can be easily spread on the internet, especially when it comes to somewhat complicated or misunderstood topics. Take estate planning, for example. While some people in Florida might have a vague idea of what it entails, there is still a lot of misinformation out there. One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is the idea that only the very wealthy need to have an estate plan.

Many people wrongly believe that they do not have enough to their name to warrant planning for anything. In reality, the vast majority of people have property that they should include in a will. A home, vehicle, bank accounts and other types of property are all worthy of planning for. However, creating an estate plan is about much more than listing out a person's assets.

Are you ever really done estate planning?

Planning for end-of-life matters is important, which many people in Florida understand. However, even if a person made the critical step of estate planning and creating a will, there could still be serious gaps in the plan. Updating an estate plan can be just as important as creating one in the first place, but this step is often overlooked.

Wills reflect the wants and needs of living human beings, and since those wants and needs can change, wills should also change. If a person gets married or divorced after creating a will, the information and wishes contained in it are likely no longer accurate. Failing to update a will that lists only a person's first spouse and children and not a second spouse and children in that relationship can cause quite a headache for loved ones. While the person's wishes might have been obvious, it can lead to lengthy court battles that might not yield desirable results.

Do trusts fit into your estate plan?

No two people in Florida are alike, so there cannot be any type of one-size-fits-all approach to estate planning. What works for one person might not be the best fit for another. This is why it is important for individuals to consider whether wills or trusts best suit their estate planning needs. Wills might be more well-known, but trusts also offer a lot of benefits.

Common perception of trusts is often that they are only for the extremely wealthy or those who are trying to dodge paying taxes. Both of these are misconceptions, and people of all income backgrounds might find that a revocable trust can meet their needs. Simply put, a revocable trust is a legal document that acts as a sort of fictitious person. A person can place his or her assets into the trust, and then a trustee can manage the property. It can be changed or even revoked during the creator's lifetime.

Retirement and taxes: Get to know Florida

As someone who has lived in the northern states, you always hoped you'd be able to retire somewhere warmer. It's better for the elderly to live in warmer, sunnier environments, and you have more usable days where you can participate in the activities you love.

One of the states that people often travel to for retirement is Florida. Florida is among the most tax-friendly states for retirees in the country. It's a great place to retire thanks to not having a state income tax and a $50,000 homestead exemption given to permanent residents. Seniors, beneficially, may qualify for even more.

Should you be asking your parents about estate planning?

Even for adult children, it is hard to imagine a life in which parents have specialized medical needs or where they are not around anymore at all. Unfortunately, these types of issues are an unavoidable fact of life. Avoiding opportunities to talk about end-of-life issues will not make these things magically disappear. Instead, talking about estate planning with parents can help Florida families better handle these difficult matters as they arise.

Estate planning encompasses much more than just what happens to a person's estate after he or she passes away. Making plans for end-of-life care is often just as important as deciding who gets what, especially because of the hefty associated cost. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars per year. Even if their parents seem healthy, adult children should consider asking their parents what their plans are for specialized care during their later years. Discussing end-of-life wishes and planning can alleviate confusion during difficult times.

Don't make these estate planning mistakes

Creating an estate plan might seem straightforward, and in some ways it is. However, estate planning can become a little more involved depending on a person's needs, assets and liabilities. This means that people in Florida cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to the process. Here are a few things that individuals might want to watch out for when embarking on their estate planning journey.

One of the most common mistakes is a very easy problem to address. Many people create their wills and then either never or very rarely make changes. Wills generally need to be updated more frequently than most people might think, and making a yearly review is usually a good idea. However, big life changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the acquisition of significant property could indicate that an update is needed sooner rather than later.

Collect art, antiques or more? Don't forget estate planning

Most people tend to accumulate items of interest or even significant value over their lifetime. Whether someone has a tendency to collect interesting works of art or routinely goes antique shopping, the average person in Florida might be surprised to find out how much they really own. Estate planning can help with more than just passing on assets after death, and can also be used to track and document personal property during a person's lifetime.

After years or even decades of obtaining personal property, keeping track of everything can become difficult. While it might not be uncommon to misplace a personal item and find it later, forgetting about a significant asset later in life can have unintended consequences. For example, that forgotten asset might be tucked away in the attic of a home sold off to someone else or even taken by a disgruntled heir. Keeping accurate track of all personal property in a will can prevent such situations.

Which type of trust can help with special needs planning?

Most Florida parents approach estate planning with their children in mind. Whether they are selecting guardians for their minor children or working out an inheritance for their adult kids, leaving behind a legacy is important. That legacy becomes even more important for parents of children with special needs. In these situations, a trust might be especially useful.

Adults with special needs often have additional needs and expenses, including things like treatment, specialized medical care and even fees for residential facilities. For parents who have the means to completely cover their children's future needs, leaving everything in a discretionary trust can be an effective option. A trustee would be in charge of distributing both an income and some principal on behalf of the child, the beneficiary. However, most parents do not have enough stashed away to cover all of their children's needs.

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William A. Johnson, P.A.
140 Interlachen Road, Suite B
Melbourne, FL 32940

Phone: 321-426-1865
Fax: 321-242-8417
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