What happens if you pass away without an estate plan? In Florida, you will be classified as “intestate,” and your property and assets will be subject to the state’s intestacy laws. The Legal Information Institute explains that the legal definition of intestacy is that state law will decide what happens to your property—meaning you will lose out on your opportunity to take control of your own estate. Proper planning is key to protecting your property rights. Here, our Fort Lauderdale estate planning attorney provides a comprehensive guide to securing your property rights in Florida.
Take a Detailed Inventory of Your Property and Assets
To properly secure your assets, it is imperative that you know what you actually own. Indeed, the first step towards fully protecting your property is understanding what exists. For some people in South Florida, an inventory of property/assets is a relatively straightforward process. For other people, it can be extremely complex. Be thorough. Among other things, you should include a list of valuable items such as your house, other real estate, vehicles, jewelry, savings, retirement accounts, business interests, and anything else with tangible economic value. Not only will this type of in-depth inventory give you a clear picture of what you have, it will also help you decide how you want to distribute them.
Know What You Want to Do With Your Property
Estate planning is about your goals. Ultimately, the point of securing your property is to ensure that your financial interests are protected and, eventually, that you are able to pass down your assets in a manner of your choosing. Once you have a detailed list, think about what you want to do with each item or asset. Who do you want to inherit your house? Should your savings be divided equally among your children? Consider your family’s needs and your personal wishes. At its core, this step in the estate planning process is about setting clear intentions for the future of your assets.
Understand the Financial Risks That You Face
Everyone’s situation is unique, and so are the risks. Maybe you have a large mortgage—or perhaps you are worried about medical expenses eating into your savings. Notably, the threat of long-term care costs is far and away the biggest threat to people’s property and assets in Florida. A private room in a nursing home can easily run over $100,000 per year. A Fort Lauderdale estate planning lawyer can help you understand the risk and put a proactive plan in place that best protects your property and your assets. The bottom line: Understanding the risks will help you plan better.
Get the Most Out of Your Retirement Accounts
Retirement accounts—like 401(k)s and IRAs—are an essential part of estate planning. As you start aging and entering your retirement period, navigating your retirement accounts can be challenging. These savings can be among your most important, valuable assets. It is imperative that you understand the rules about who can inherit these accounts and how the transfers work. In some cases, choosing the right beneficiary can significantly reduce taxes and increase the value that your loved ones receive. You also need to know when and how you should start taking the distributions from your retirement accounts. The right plan can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Ensure That You Have a Well-Drafted Will in Place
A will should be part of every estate plan. As noted at the beginning of this article, you need a will to ensure that you are able to retain control over your own property and assets once you pass away. Without a valid will, Florida law steps in and decides who gets to inherit what. You lose the right to make your own decisions. A will is a legal document that lays out your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of any minor children. To make sure your wishes are followed, you need a clear, legally valid will. The best thing you can do is to ensure that your will is drafted by an experienced Fort Lauderdale estate planning attorney.
Appoint a Trusted Power of Attorney (POA)
What would happen if you suddenly became incapacitated? Who would manage your day-to-day finances? Would bills get paid? Would your property and assets still be protected? The proper estate plan can help you address this issue. You should always appoint a trusted, competent power of attorney (POA) as part of your estate plan. As someone you appoint to manage your affairs if you’re unable to do so—such as if you become temporarily ill or permanently incapacitated. The POA can make financial decisions, handle business transactions, and even make medical decisions for you. Have questions about power of attorney in Florida? An experienced Fort Lauderdale estate planning lawyer can help you put the right structure in place.
Consider Using a Trust to Protect Assets and/or Achieve Specific Goals
A will is a necessary estate planning document. That being said, a will is not always sufficient for people and families to fully and properly secure their assets. Trusts can be a powerful tool in estate planning. Indeed, these legal arrangements can help you manage your assets while you are alive and distribute them after your death. Trusts can also help reduce estate taxes and protect your estate from lawsuits and creditors. There are many types of trusts—and each type of trust has its own advantages. You need to ensure you have the right trust for your specific needs.
Speak to Our Fort Lauderdale Estate Planning Lawyer Today
At The Law Offices of Odelia Goldberg, our Fort Lauderdale estate planning attorney is a skilled, experienced, and future-focused advocate for clients and their families. If you have any specific questions or concerns about securing your property rights, we can help. Contact us today for a completely confidential initial case assessment. From our office in Fort Lauderdale, we are committed to helping clients secure their property rights throughout all of South Florida.
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