William A. Johnson, P.A. William A. Johnson, P.A.
Probate And Elder Law Services In Brevard County
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Melbourne, Florida, Trust, Estate Planning And Probate Law Blog

Yes, your Facebook login information belongs in your estate plan

Life without the internet can be hard to imagine. Most people in Florida have at least one or more social media accounts, email accounts and more. Important documents or family photos that were once stored in a physical location are now saved to the cloud. Although in many ways the internet has made life far easier, things can get complicated when individuals fail to include their digital assets in their estate plan. 

Digital assets are things like usernames and passwords, digital files, e-commerce accounts and much, much more. These assets can be financially valuable as well as emotionally important, so protecting them from exploitation or abandonment is essential. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes just how important this is. A survey from AVG Technologies found that only 16 percent of baby boomers had given any thought to their digital assets in terms of estate planning, and only a mere 3 percent had actually taken steps to include them in their plans. 

Estate planning to protect your retirement savings

Having a will is a great first step to creating a comprehensive estate plan. However, these important documents may not be as effective as intended if Florida individuals do not regularly review and update their contents. More than just going down the list of property already covered by the will, this also includes considering adding new assets and estate planning tools, such as trusts. 

Including retirement accounts in an estate plan is not always obvious. After all, most people list a beneficiary to receive the funds should they otherwise be unable to, so why go to the trouble of including it in an estate? Taxes and time are both significant considerations in this matter. 

Why do I need an estate plan if I'm not rich?

Many of the discussions that revolve around estate planning involve preserving wealth or protecting complex assets from probate. These topics are important, but they may also make some feel as if this process does not apply to them. This is untrue as virtually everyone in Florida can benefit from creating an estate plan. 

Only 22 percent of millennials have a will, and many give the same reasons as to why. If they are not married or do not have children, why bother putting the time and effort into creating an estate plan? Although it may be true that this generation is putting off these types of milestones in life, they still have family who would be left to deal with their assets should the unexpected happen. 

Aretha Franklin did not do any estate planning, family says

Musical icon Aretha Franklin was beloved by many people in Florida, and her recent passing left many feeling incredibly sad for the woman and her family. However, some fans were surprised to learn that Franklin apparently did not engage in any type of estate planning. According to her family, she did not leave behind any trusts, wills or other planning documents. 

Franklin's four sons recently submitted documentation that lists themselves as the interested parties for her estate. One of the documents included information from her estate attorney and one of her sons, indicating that she had not left behind a will. As such, Franklin died intestate, which means that her assets will be split according to state law and not her personal wishes. 

An asset protection trust could help you protect your savings

As you age, you may begin to understand the importance of protecting the life you've built. You have many assets you've collected over the years, and you need to know that they're safe against liquidation or sale when you age and need care. You want to protect your savings for your heirs, too.

Anyone who has assets that could be at risk upon death or impairment should look into obtaining a trust to protect those assets. Trusts protect your assets against many situations where they could be used to pay off debts. For instance, if you're in a car crash and held liable, your trust may shield the majority of your assets from being used to pay back the victims.

What do new parents need in their estate plan?

The birth of a new child is a joyous occasion, but it can also be a frightening one. Will your child be taken care of if something happens to both you and your significant other? Who will care for the child, and what funds will go towards his or her upbringing? Updating or establishing an estate plan during this pivotal new time of life is an absolute must for all Florida parents. 

A guardian is a person legally tasked with caring for a child should their parents be unable to do so. Most parents would prefer to select their child's guardian rather than leaving it up to the courts, so including this in a will is important. Typically, parents understand who will provide the best possible care for their child, whereas the courts do their best but may operate on limited knowledge. A judge can review facts, but will not necessarily know what individual parents feel best suits their own parenting style. 

The difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust

A comprehensive estate plan is essential. While most people in Florida understand that they need a will and maybe a power of attorney or two, not everyone realizes what a trust can do for them. Some trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable, which provide different benefits depending on what a person needs most. 

As their name suggests, revocable trusts can be revoked. Commonly referred to as living trusts, they can also be changed, altered or modified as needed. This is useful for individuals who think they may need to remove their property from the trust at some point in the future. Assets in a revocable trust can also be distributed to heirs without needing to go through probate first. 

How intestate law will handle your estate

When a person dies without a will, intestacy law takes over. The person's estate is considered intestate, and a state statute dictates how the person's assets will be distributed and to which heirs. While most people in Florida associate the word heirs with a person's children, it can actually be applied in a much broader fashion. Parents, spouses, cousins and anyone who receives something from an estate after a person's death is an heir. 

Intestate law applies differently depending on whether the person was married, single or had children. For example, a person with a living spouse but no children would have all of his or her estate left to his or her spouse. However, even if the deceased had surviving children, if he or she parented those children with the surviving spouse, the kids still do not get anything -- it all goes to the wife or husband. It gets more complicated from here, and addresses what happens if the surviving spouse has a child from a different partner. In that case, the spouse only gets half of the estate and the children get the other half. 

Is probate a bad thing?

Creating an estate plan is important for many reasons. Doing so can ensure that a person's medical choices are respected, assets are distributed according to the maker's wishes and that surviving Florida family members have a clear plan to follow in the wake of their loved one's death. Another big plus to estate planning? Easing the probate process. 

Probate can be a useful process in some cases. This legal process begins after a person's death, typically when a representative of the estate officially submits a death certificate to the probate court. At that point there may be a waiting period, after which the court will process any number of tasks, including totaling assets, paying debts and taxes, identifying heirs and, authenticating and validating a will. 

Moving? Make sure to update your estate plan

You recently moved to Florida, and it's your goal to make friends and spend a lot of time fishing and golfing. Before you do that, though, take the time to review your estate plan. With your recent move, there may be aspects of the plan that you need to address to keep your estate safe from taxation and probate.

One good thing about Florida is that it does not have a state death tax, and there is no income tax. If you've moved from a state where you could have faced taxation upon death or income taxes, then worry no longer.


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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