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Miami Estate Planning Law Blog

What are the main reasons to avoid probate?

If you have recently started to research estate planning, you may have started to notice that a huge emphasis is placed on attempting to avoid probate. Probate is a court-supervised process that essentially ensures that all assets within an estate are distributed correctly. So, you would be right to question why estate planners want to avoid probate.

The following are some of the key reasons why many estate planners invest time in creating strategic ways to avoid probate, such as creating trusts.

What to do as a will executor

When a loved one in Florida passes away, a person left behind may be surprised to discover that they have been named the executor of the will. This task can come with serious responsibilities, including securing the person's estate and assets, notifying the beneficiaries named, filing necessary tax returns ant introducing the will into probate court.

There are several tips people can follow to help make the process run more smoothly. It's best to choose a lawyer familiar with the probate court process. A friend who mainly handles other issues may not have the experience to know everything they need to know. The executor also needs to pay attention to the beneficiaries. Even though many people don't sign up to be an executor, the position comes with a fiduciary duty, and the executor could be removed for failing to let the beneficiaries know what is happening.

Tax law changes may spark review of estate plans

Tax law changes could affect the way that some people in Florida plan for the future. In 2019, the federal exemption for estate and gift taxes has reached $11.4 million per person or $22.8 million for married couples. This means that most people may not be exposed to federal estate taxes although people with substantial wealth may want to put more consideration into the planning processes. After all, these larger exemptions are scheduled to sunset in 2025 unless they are renewed by Congress. This is one reason that estate planning is almost never a final process. People can actively review their wills and other estate documents in order to make sure that they reflect current relationships and life changes as well as different tax regulations.

Checking on a person's estate plan can be important for people at all levels of wealth. It is easy to leave an old will in place that winds up excluding a newer child or grandchild while leaving a former spouse as a beneficiary. While many people look over their wills and make the changes that come along with significant life events, people may be less likely to review their beneficiary designations.

Discuss your will with your adult children

There will come a time in your life when you should have a difficult discussion with your adult children. That discussion is about what they will do and what they will inherit when you die. No one wants to think about or talk about death, but it is an important discussion you need to have. Your adult children should know about your wishes, your will and how the estate will be divided.

Fighting and confusion among your adult children can be prevented when you explain the decisions made with your estate plan and will. When you outline for your children how you came to the decisions you made, they will at least have an understanding of your thinking. It is up to them to accept these decisions.

Planning how a trust will end

Some people in Florida may want to consider creating a trust as part of their estate plan. A trust can be a good way to protect assets, but people should also be aware that trusts come to an end as well. It is important to plan how this will happen to ensure that the purpose of the trust is fulfilled.

The person who creates the trust is known as the grantor, and the person who is in charge of taking care of the trust is the trustee. The beneficiary is the person who benefits from the trust. The document that outlines the rule for the trust is known as the trust instrument.

Smart tactics to avoid estate taxes

If you are planning your estate as someone with a high amount of assets, you will likely be concerned about estate taxes. While estate taxes at death are faced by less than 1% of the American population, these individuals must do what they can to minimize the taxes that their estate will be subject to.

There are many ways to use estate planning strategies creatively so that your estate will not be subject to estate taxes. The following are some common strategies that estate planners implement when doing this.

Drafting an estate plan to avoid probate

Florida residents usually put estate plans into place to reduce their tax burdens and ensure that their assets are passed to their loved ones in accordance with their wishes. This is generally done by using wills. Wills must go through the long and sometimes costly probate process before property can be distributed, but this step may be avoided by placing assets into trusts or using beneficiary designations.

Money from life insurance policies and retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k) accounts can be transferred to the beneficiary listed on the documents without first going through probate. This is why it is important for individuals with such assets to check their beneficiary designations regularly and list backup as well as primary beneficiaries. This becomes especially important following a major life event such as a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child or grandchild. In some cases, account holders may name several beneficiaries who will all receive a designated amount.

An overview of federal estate tax laws

When a person passes away, the contents of their estate will be subject to a wide range of fees and procedures. State laws can determine whether an estate will be subject to estate or inheritance taxes. However, federal law also has a large impact on when estates have to pay federal tax and under what circumstances exemptions occur.

If you are involved in processing an estate on behalf of a loved one or if you are currently planning your own estate, it is important to have a good understanding of the current laws and financial limits regarding federal estate taxes.

What are the different types of guardianships in Florida?

A guardian is someone who is appointed by a Florida judge to render financial or other personal decisions on behalf of a child or someone with physical or mental disabilities. Guardianships can be either involuntary or voluntary in the state of Florida.

Voluntary guardianships are often established by an adult over another person of a similar age. The ward may request to be appointed a guardian to help them manage their estate if they feel like it might be in their best interest not to do so on their own.

The importance of continuous estate planning

Florida residents have likely heard of filmmaker John Singleton. He passed away in April 2019, and at the time of his death, he only had a will that was last updated in 1993. He had at least five children when he passed, and there is speculation that he may have had two more daughters. Regardless, his lack of estate planning may make it difficult for his family to settle his estate in a timely or affordable manner.

There is some confusion as to Singleton's net worth at the time of his passing. His mother said that he had $3.8 million in assets in a probate filing, but it has also been reported that he was worth $35 million when he passed. Some believe that Singleton created a trust that is holding the additional money. However, others have said that individuals who create trusts generally create a pour-over will as well.

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