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Estate Planning Attorneys
How To: Estate Planning in Central Florida
by DeWitt Law Firm
The Orlando Estate Planning Attorneys at the DeWitt Law Firm will guide you through the process of developing your estate plan to help preserve your wealth and protect your family. We understand that most people do not want to think about or deal with the estate planning process. However, it is important to have an estate plan in place to avoid dying “intestate”. If you have not executed a will or a trust, which states how you want your estate distributed, then you are said to have died intestate. Without an estate plan, your property may end up in the hands of unintended beneficiaries or even the state and may be subject to unwanted fees, taxes, and probate costs.
There are many estate planning tools to help avoid these unintended consequences. When evaluating and formulating an estate plan it is important to discuss how you want your property to pass to the next generation and the potential estate taxes that may be involved with the transfer. Regardless of the size of your estate, it is imperative that you have an estate plan that will provide guidance to your family and loved ones in order to avoid family disputes and provide the necessary financial resources for your family after you are gone. At the DeWitt Law Firm, we review and draft all documents necessary to create an estate plan, including simple wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, certificates of trust, living wills, powers of attorney, and advanced medical directives.
Without a simple will or a trust, the inheritance laws (laws of intestacy) determine how your property will be distributed. If you have no heirs that qualify for distribution according to state law, then your assets will be taken by the state. Even if you have no immediate relatives, it is important to have an estate plan in place to avoid your property being put into the hands of the state. An estate plan gives you the option to give your assets to whomever you choose and protect your assets after you are gone.
Additionally, a will and a trust, may help avoid or expedite the probate process. Probate is the process where the courts oversee the orderly distribution of the assets of an estate. The probate process can be long, complex, and expensive. Planning ahead of time to help minimize the probate process may help your family avoid headaches down the road as well as expensive legal fees. It is important to note that you must have both a will and a trust to avoid the probate process. A common misconception is that a will alone can avoid probate. This is simply incorrect. Additionally, if the trust is never properly formed or funded, your estate may still end up in probate and be the subject of a lengthy and complex probate process.
We recommend that all individuals review their estate planning documents on an annual basis to ensure that there are no substantial changes necessary. It is a good idea to get in the habit of reviewing your estate planning documents when you are preparing your taxes to make sure that the documents are up to date, accurate, and reflect your current wishes and intentions. At the very least, you should review your estate plan every time there is a major change in your life such as the birth or death of a family member, marriage, or divorce.
At the DeWitt Law Firm, we help clients develop a sound and comprehensive estate plan. We discuss the specifics of your family situation and advise you of the best estate planning tools for your needs. Once we develop the appropriate estate plan, we help our clients with its implementation by drafting the necessary documents, and advising them about funding any trusts created as a part of the plan.