If you are a Florida resident or planning to make the Sunshine State your home, the necessity of having an estate plan cannot be overstated. Estate planning is not just for the affluent or the elderly. It is a crucial step for anyone looking to safeguard their assets, protect their loved ones and shape their legacy.
What is the estate planning process?
Estate planning involves organizing the management and distribution of your assets, both during your lifetime and after your demise. It ensures your wishes are respected, and your beneficiaries are shielded. Without a proper estate plan, critical decisions fall to the default rules of the state, which may not align with your preferences or the best interests of your family.
The consequences of passing without an estate plan
For instance, dying without a will in Florida subjects your property to distribution according to the state’s intestacy laws, potentially conflicting with your wishes. If you become incapacitated without a power of attorney or health care directive, a court-appointed guardian may make decisions on your behalf, possibly not in line with your preferences.
How to avoid the consequences
To avert such issues, crafting a personalized estate plan is imperative. A basic estate plan in Florida typically comprises a will that directs the disposition of your property after death and appoints a personal representative (executor). It also includes a power of attorney, which grants legal authority to someone to act on your behalf for financial and legal matters.
Usually, they include a Health Care Directive that allows someone to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated, including a living will stating your desire regarding life-sustaining treatment. Another document is the Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian that designates a legal guardian, if one is deemed necessary by the court.
Estate tax planning is another facet to consider, particularly if you have a substantial estate. While the current federal estate tax exemption is $13,610,000 per person, it is set to revert to $5 million (adjusted for inflation) in 2026. For those with larger estates, exploring strategies like gifting assets, creating trusts or charitable donations can help minimize or eliminate estate tax liability.
Remember, estate planning is not a one-time task, but an ongoing process. Regular reviews, especially after major life changes, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child, ensure your estate plan remains aligned with your current circumstances, goals and wishes. By prioritizing and maintaining your estate plan in Florida, you secure the distribution of your assets, provide for your loved ones and preserve your lasting legacy.