3 Questions About Estate Planning to Ask Yourself

As you consider this important step – preparing an estate plan – you may spend some time reflecting on your life and property. Ask yourself the following questions about estate planning before talking to your attorney.

#1 – Do I need an estate plan?

This one is easy to answer – absolutely! Whether your estate will be large or small, an estate plan provides instruction and guidance to your family. The personal representative you name in your Will can begin settling your estate soon after your death.

Estate plans also deal with incapacity. No one plans to become incapacitated, but it happens. If you reach the point where you cannot communicate, it’s too late to put a plan in place.

Here’s a likely scenario if you do not have an estate plan:

  • If you become incapacitated, your family may have to ask a court to appoint a guardian to handle your personal and medical needs and to make financial decisions for you.
  • After death, your property will be distributed according to the intestacy laws with absolutely no consideration to your wishes.

You have a chance now to make things easier on your family.

#2 – What happens to my family if I become incapacitated?

People become incapacitated for a number of reasons. Older people may have a stroke or suffer from Alzheimer’s. Even younger people can become incapacitated, however. As noted above, once the incapacity sets in, it is probably too late to make any plans.

Your family may have to petition a court for a guardian. They may incur legal fees, court costs, and lost wages. Unplanned guardianships can be especially difficult if family members disagree.

It’s also very likely your family may have to ask the court to appoint a guardian to handle your financial affairs. While the court case progresses, there may be no one to attend to your investments. Your bills may go unpaid. In addition to legal fees and court costs, your family may face late payments and depreciating assets.

 

#3 – What’s the best way to pass property to my heirs?

It’s impossible to give a definitive answer to this question. Too many factors are at play. With that being said, you can pass property to your heirs in the following ways:

  • Outright gifts. You may just give your assets away. However, watch for gift taxes and be cautious about depleting your estate too soon.
  • Will or Trust. You can pass your assets through your Will, but the transfer may be delayed by probate. Using a trust to distribute your property may offer more advantages.
  • Joint Titles. Naming an heir as joint owner of your property is possible, but unless the joint owner is a spouse, doing so may have some serious disadvantages, including creditor protection concerns and possible gift tax consequences.

As always, talk to an attorney before using any of the strategies listed above.

Have more questions about estate planning?

John Mangan is an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who has been board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. At the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., we have assisted many clients in developing comprehensive estate plans that meet their needs. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form.

Written by John Mangan, Esq.

John Mangan, Esq.

I’m an attorney in Palm City, FL, and I serve clients throughout Martin County, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, and Indiantown, as well as those in St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, Palm Beach County, and other parts of Florida. The Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., is an innovative firm providing estate planning services to clients in Florida. We focus primarily on wills, trusts, asset protection, guardianship, and probate administration.