Life and Estate Planning in Florida

Neil T. Lyons

Estate planning is often thought of as only for the extremely wealthy, elderly and/or ill portion of our population. However, planning for the future is necessary for any income level or age, regardless of health.

While it can be uncomfortable or undesirable to think of one’s passing, or even the possibility of becoming incapacitated, it is vital to put time and effort into creating a legal plan so that your wishes regarding your health and assets are known and honored.

In an effort to provide peace of mind, and educate the general public about some general life planning issues, we offer the following information;

Benefits of Estate Planning

At the end of life, there will be a transition of your assets to others. Will that transition of assets occur according to your wishes? Will you provide for your family and favorite charitable causes to the best of your ability? A frank discussion of these questions is in order for any thoughtful person. Estate planning documents can lessen family conflict in a stressful time by clearly spelling out your wishes and preventing family dynamics from dictating your health or financial decisions.

Do I Need a Will or a Trust?

Everyone’s personal and financial situation is different. Some client’s needs are best met using a will, and some require a revocable trust (sometimes known as a revocable living trust). Our legal staff will review your family situation, assets and needs and make recommendations that fit your specific needs.

Does Every Will have to be Probated?

Not every will must be probated. If there are no assets subject to probate, probate administration may not be necessary. Probate is a court process used to determine the validity of a will and oversee the payment of creditors and distribution of estate assets. Even if there is no valid will at the time of death, an estate may still be subject to probate. Probate is regulated by state laws, and there are specific procedures prescribed by each state for carrying out the process.

New Life Events to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Just Married/Remarried in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Getting married is a joyous occasion. It’s also a timely opportunity to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of joint ownership of bank accounts and other assets, titling your primary residence, and ensuring that your spouse is recognized as your primary decision maker for both your health and finances. Just as important as the vows you make to your spouse are the plans you make for your new life, together. Don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss your new marital status and how it affects other aspects of your life choices.

Widowed in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Losing a spouse is a devastating event in anyone’s life. Unfortunately, the loss of a spouse has implications for any existing estate plan you and your late spouse have executed. When you are ready, you should think about having your existing estate plan reviewed by our attorneys, who will discuss any changes or updates to your estate plan that might need to be made. Making sure your wishes are addressed as a surviving spouse can prevent or lessen any confusion or conflict in the event you become incapacitated.

Divorce in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

If you’re recently divorced and have completed estate planning documents with your former spouse, you should meet with an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. You’ll want to take steps to revise your documents to remove your former spouse from any decision making or to prevent them from receiving assets they are no longer entitled to. We’ll ask questions and converse with you to make sure your wishes are documented and up-to-date.

Arrival of Children or Grandchildren in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

A new child can be a blessing, but does your estate plan account for new additions to your family? Who will care for your children if something happens to you? Who will manage your child’s inheritance if you pass away before they reach the age of 18? These are pressing questions to consider and will be discussed as you meet with your attorney to customize your estate planning documents.

Blending Families in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Blended families are usually seen in second (or more) marriages where one or both spouses have children that are not from the current marriage. Avoid unnecessary conflict by contacting an estate planning attorney to review the unique challenges that clients with blended families should be aware of in order to ensure their wishes are updated and respected in regard to the new family dynamic.

Home Ownership in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Did you know that as a Florida resident, there are restrictions on who you can devise your primary residence to if you are survived by a spouse or one or more minor children? Did you know that you may waive your homestead creditor protections if you devise your primary residence to a non-relative? There are many considerations related to home ownership that should be discussed with an estate planning attorney. Contact our office to talk about the specific factors in your situation and how that should be accounted for in your estate plan.

Just Moved to Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

If you are new to Florida and have estate planning documents drafted in another state, it’s always prudent to meet with an estate planning attorney to review your non-Florida documents. While your out-of-state documents are likely valid, they may contain clauses which are in conflict with Florida law, such as Homestead. An estate planning attorney licensed and well-versed in Florida law can assist in reviewing and advising your estate plan to make sure it is in accordance with your new home state’s legislation.

Start of a New Business in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Starting a new business can be an exciting and challenging chapter of your life. But have you thought about who will run our business if you are unable to? Have you considered who will inherit your business if you pass away? Documents such as a power of attorney, for example, can give a trustworthy individual the ability to make important business decisions on your behalf if you are unable to due to incapacity or other circumstances. Contact our office to meet with an attorney to learn more about how to protect your business.

It's Been A While: Three to Five Years in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

It’s a good habit to review your existing estate planning documents with your estate planning attorney every three to five years. Meeting with an estate planning attorney to review your documents can keep you up to date with important changes in the law, and it enables you to review your existing estate plan to ensure it conforms to your current wishes. Our office will assist you in maintaining a personalized plan to protect your interests and assets.

Other Significant Changes in Family Circumstances in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

Any significant changes in family circumstances could significantly influence your existing estate plan. If you’ve experienced a significant change that could affect your choice in decision-maker, your beneficiaries, your real property or other significant something something something, don’t forget to review and potentially revise your estate planning documents. If you are unsure if any changes need to be made, play it safe and reach out to our office to discuss your situation with our experienced legal team.

Approaching Retirement in Sarasota, Bradenton, or Lakewood Ranch

If you’re approaching retirement it’s a great time to have your existing estate plan reviewed. If you are nearing retirement and do not currently have an estate plan, you should absolutely meet with an estate planning attorney. Retirement is a life-changing event which will likely impact the financial legacy you will be leaving to your heirs. An estate planning attorney can help you pick options that are best suited to your needs at this stage in your life.