Estate Planning FAQ’s
How often should I review my estate plan?
No Estate plan is permanent. Estate plans should change as personal circumstances change. You should review your estate plan every two or three years at a minimum, or more frequently should your personal circumstances change significantly. For example, it is a good idea to review your estate plan with an attorney if you move to a different state, lose your spouse, get divorced, have additional children or grandchildren, or if your financial position changes significantly.
Does my Will avoid probate?
NO. Wills do not avoid probate. In fact, your Will is your written instructions to the probate court as to how you wish for your estate to be administered and ultimately distributed.
Do Wills increase probate expenses?
NO. Wills do not increase the cost of probate. A carefully drawn Will often reduces probate expenses because it names beneficiaries and sets forth procedures intended to simplify administration. Intestate administrations (no valid Will) increase probate expense and lengthen the entire probate process.
Do all assets go through probate?
NO. Only assets owned in your individual name require probate. Assets owned jointly as “tenants by the entirety” with your spouse avoid probate and pass directly to the surviving spouse without probate. Also, assets such as life insurance, IRAs and annuities pass directly to the named beneficiaries outside of probate.
If my Will goes to probate, does the State of Florida take some or all of my assets?
Your estate will “escheat” to the State of Florida only in the rare event that your will is invalid and if you have absolutely no family who survives you.
Am I required to leave an estranged child one dollar?
You are not required to include children in your Will if that is your wish. Leaving a child one dollar is not necessary and can actually add additional expense and delays to your estate. It is better to simply state in your Will that you intentionally make no provision for that child.
What is a Trust?
A Trust is a legal relationship whereby an owner (the “Grantor”) transfers legal title to his or her assets to another party (the “Trustee”) who agrees to hold those assets for the benefit of the Grantor or for another party (the “Beneficiary”). A written trust document sets forth the terms and conditions under which the Trustee holds, uses and distributes those assets for the Beneficiary. The Trust controls only those assets that are titled in the name of the Trust.
What are the Benefits of a Living Trust?
A Living Trust is a trust you can create during your lifetime (hence “living”). To create this Trust, you execute a trust document that sets forth your wishes as to how your assets shall be held, used and managed during your lifetime. You can serve as your own Trustee, thereby reserving total control over your trust assets, and can appoint a successor Trustee to serve in the event of your incapacity, resignation or death. Living Trusts are typically revocable, meaning you reserve the right to revoke the trust or to amend any of its provisions, including who serves as the successor Trustee. Further, your Living Trust directs how any remaining trust assets are to be distributed at your death. In this sense, the Living Trust act as a Will substitute with respect to the assets owned by the Trust.
Some benefits of a Living Trust include:
• You maintain complete control over Trust assets for as long as you are able.
• The Trust serves as a vehicle for managing your financial assets in the event you become incapacitated,
thereby avoiding costly and often embarrassing guardianship proceedings
• Trusts keep your affairs private. Unlike probate, Trust administrations are not exposed to public record.
• Trusts avoid probate, allowing for the quick and efficient transfer of property to your loved ones without
the delays and red tape typically associated of Florida.
• Trusts typically reduce estate settlement expenses.
• Trust can reduce taxes in some cases.
A McLin Burnsed estate-planning attorney can discuss with you whether a Living Trust fits your unique situation.
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