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Five Life Situations Compelling You to Have an Estate Plan

By Howard C. Stross
December 29, 2022

An estate plan will benefit your unique situation and address your specific concerns. When reviewing your situation, remember the situations below, any of which is reason alone to create or update your estate plan:

  1. You have or plan to have minor children. What is your plan if you cannot care for your children? Have you named a guardian for your minor children if you cannot care for them? How would your children receive any money or property – outright or in a continuing trust?
  2. You have children from a prior relationship. If you have a blended family, you may face competing priorities of wanting to provide for your children as well as your spouse.
  3. You have a beneficiary with special needs. One of the great things about estate planning is providing for loved ones. If you have a loved one with disabilities or other special needs whose inheritance is not structured properly, it could be more of a curse than a blessing. This is especially true when a loved one is receiving, or might one day receive, government aid such as Medicaid.
  4. You own your own business. Deciding what will happen to your business if you become incapacitated requires careful consideration and planning. This planning should not be done alone or without proper advice from your CPA, a financial planner, and an estate planning attorney to ensure you have planned for your care and your business objectives will be accomplished too.
  5. You have a pet. You could become incapacitated or pass away leaving behind a pet who requires care. Not everyone has the time and space for a pet or can afford to care for one. To ensure that your furry family member is taken care of, you cannot sit back and assume everything will work itself out. Florida law allows you to have a plan for your pet’s care as part of your overall estate plan.

Is having just a will an estate plan? It may be a plan but not a comprehensive one. A will only goes into effect at your death. It provides no guidance for what should happen if you become incapacitated. 

Estate planning is about more than just who gets your money and property at death. It is also about providing instructions in the event you are alive but cannot adequately care for yourself and need someone to step in to help.

With lifetime planning documents, such as a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will, and Durable Power of Attorney, you designate decision makers to step in for you when you are incapable of making decisions. With estate planning documents, such as a Last Will and Testament, you state who will receive your assets at death and you designate who will be in charge of settling your estate in probate.

Although there are steps you can take to avoid the probate of your assets at death, such as naming a transfer-on-death or payable-on-death beneficiary on your financial accounts and naming a beneficiary for your life insurance and retirement accounts, there may be risks associated with these approaches. Your beneficiary’s creditors have easy access to the assets they receive. Your beneficiary gets to choose when and how the money is spent. If there are assets remaining at your beneficiary’s death, they get to choose who will receive it – not you.

If you want to avoid probate and still protect and control the assets you are leaving to a beneficiary, using a revocable living trust is a good solution. With a revocable living trust, you retain control of your assets, and the benefits from them, during your lifetime, and you dictate how your trustee is to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries after your death.

The first step in planning is often the most challenging. Take that first step and contact Stross Law Firm today at (813-852-6500) to arrange a courtesy appointment with one of our attorneys. After you take that first step, you will have a sense of relief in knowing you have started to address your estate planning concerns.

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