Your Florida Estate Planning Checklist
Your Florida Estate Planning Checklist
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just about figuring out what junk to leave behind to your surviving family, and it absolutely isn’t something that you can put off until the eleventh hour. It allows you to elect a guardian for your children should you pass on prematurely, as well as appointing a trusted individual to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. The process of getting an estate plan together isn’t difficult. Here’s an estate planning checklist with some of most important components to consider.
It’s time to take inventory of your assets. Assets are a comprehensive term for your money and possessions. You’ll want to list out all of your bank accounts, IRAs, 401(k)s, and any other investment accounts you have. Next, list out any real estate and vehicles (including boats) that you own. Last comes the remainder of your valuables, such as collectibles, antiques, and works of art. Keep in mind that this does not need to be a list that contains absolutely everything that you own, just the things that are important to you and would like to pass on to future generations.
Who Gets What?
Things can get dramatic and tricky here, or so daytime television would have you believe. The good news is that legal procedurals and soap operas tend to exaggerate things. As a rule of thumb, many married couples will leave all of their possessions to their spouse in their estate plan, but you should have contingencies in place should your partner outlive you. Whether you decide on dividing up your personal property equally among your family or on assigning specific items to specific people is entirely up to you.
No parent wants to think that they won’t make it to their child’s 18th birthday. The sad reality is that it happens. A will gives you the chance to decide on who will take up guardianship of your children if the worst comes to pass. Make sure it’s a person that you can trust implicitly, has the means to care for them, and is willing to do.
The person in charge of filing paperwork, tax returns, and distributing your assets among your beneficiaries is what is known as an “executor.” They should be reliable and capable of dealing with your surviving family members, especially if, for example, your siblings or cousins are known to be especially troublesome.
Financial Power of Attorney
You’ve probably already heard of this one. When a person falls ill or is otherwise incapacitated, “durable power of attorney” allows another individual to come in and take over your financial (and legal) affairs on your behalf. It is imperative that you pick someone who has demonstrated fiscal responsibility in the past and who you can trust to always have your best interests at heart.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
When an individual has been rendered unable to make their own medical decisions due to sickness or other complications, that’s when healthcare power of attorney kicks in. Much like the power of attorney discussed above, this empowers another person to make those medical decisions on your behalf. In some situations, this position can be even more important than the person you appoint to be your financial and/or legal proxy. Pick someone that you are absolutely confident when it comes to making the hard choices under pressure.
A Living Will
Also known as advanced directives, living wills have become more prevalent in recent decades as medical technologies get better and better at extending life. This is especially true for us Floridians, as many of us can remember the struggle over the fate of Terry Schiavo that ended in 2005. A living will dictates what you would like in terms of medical treatment when you are terminally ill or have been left unable to communicate due to a persistent vegetative state. Think long and carefully about how you want to be treated at the end of life, whether or not you want your body to be kept on life support even if it’s unlikely that you’ll ever recover. It’s a hard question to mull over, but it’s an important one to answer, for the sake of both you and your family.
Hopefully our Estate Planning Checklist has given you a better idea about what you need moving forward. However, there’s still a lot more to learn. Take a look at our blog here to learn about some of the biggest mistakes that people make when writing their wills.
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