Whenever most people consider legacy planning, their first thoughts usually involve that most tried and true estate planning tool, the will. A Last Will and Testament may not be something that everyone has, but it is certainly something that everyone needs. Unfortunately, a clear majority of people in the U.S. don’t even have this basic planning tool in place. For those who do, however, it is important to recognize that a Last Will and Testament is not enough. In fact, most people who work with a Florida probate attorney to draft their wills should consider other important tools as well.
Are Your Funeral Arrangements Taken Care of?
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that many people include the instructions for their funeral arrangements within their Last Will and Testament. At first thought, that might even seem like a natural thing to do. It’s not. In fact, it’s a huge mistake, since no one is likely to see those instructions before you are buried. The fact is that most wills aren’t even opened and read until after the funeral has already taken place. At that point, those instructions are meaningless.
To avoid that possibility, it is important to have separate instructions and plans for your burial. If you’re paying in advance for a funeral plot and service, take the time to also prepare a document that details any specifics you’d like included in that service. Even if you haven’t prepaid for the funeral arrangements, you should still legally document your desires and make sure that someone you trust knows where that document is kept.
Do You Need to Avoid Probate?
In most cases, your will need to go through probate. If you have any real assets to settle, that process could take many months or even years, and consume a noticeable portion of your estate. During probate, any dependent heirs will have only limited access to the assets they may need to support themselves. Even the allowances permitted by law may not be enough to sustain them as they wait for the process to be completed. That could cause additional hardship at a time when they’re already reeling from the pain of losing you.
There are many estate planning techniques that can help you to avoid probate, including everything from living trusts to asset ownership strategies. For example, you can use joint tenancy to ensure automatic transfer of certain property types. You can include beneficiaries on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. In fact, the more work you do now to facilitate quick and easy transfers of assets after your death, the easier it will be for your heirs to avoid major hardship and life disruption later.
Are There Special Needs to Address?
If you have a child with disabilities who needs special care, inheritances can sometimes present unique complications. This is especially true in cases where that child is reliant on government programs such as SSI or Medicaid. Any sum of money that you leave behind for that child could result in a loss of those critical benefits. A Special Needs Trust can help you to avoid that problem by providing a supplemental source of wealth that does not interfere with benefit eligibility.
Protecting the Assets in an Inheritance
There’s an old saying about fools and their wealth, and it’s an important warning to keep in mind if you have an irresponsible heir. Spendthrift behavior and creditor problems can result in an inheritance being quickly consumed before it has the chance to benefit its new owner. If you have a wasteful or otherwise irresponsible heir whose decision-making might place his own inheritance at risk, you can protect him from his own actions using a spendthrift trust.
What if You’re Incapacitated?
While you’re considering how your wealth gets distributed when you die, it can also be helpful to consider what happens to your family if you lose the ability to manage your own affairs. Powers of attorney can be a powerful part of any comprehensive estate planning effort, as they enable you to designate agents to act in your behalf when you lose the capacity to do so yourself. Without that type of planning, your family could be forced to seek a guardianship to ensure that your financial and medical decisions continue to be made.
Is Long-Term Care a Potential Concern?
In addition to those end-of-life and legacy concerns, there’s one other major issue that you should consider: long-term care. Many experts estimate that most of us will spend at least some time in a long-term care facility at some point in our later years. Currently, nursing home costs exceed $200 per day, and they’re rising every year. Do you think that you’ll have that kind of money available to pay for care when you need it?
If you’re like millions of other Americans, you’ll need to rely on programs like Medicaid to help cover those high costs. To receive those benefits, however, you’ll need to be able to meet the program’s strict eligibility requirements related to assets and income. Unless you intend to completely impoverish yourself when you reach your senior years, you may want to think about how you can begin to plan now to ensure that you can protect those assets and ensure eligibility for the program benefits you’ll need.
Find Out How We Can Help!
At Robert J. Kulas, P.A., Medicaid & Estate Planning Attorneys, we can provide you with the Florida probate attorney you need to make sure that you have more than just a Last Will and Testaments. Your will is important, but it cannot provide the complex estate planning that you need to safeguard your assets, provide for special circumstances, plan for your long-term care, or secure your interests against incapacity. We’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure that you have the tools and strategies you need to accomplish these critical goals. To learn how our team can help you with these concerns and more, contact us online or call us today at (772) 398-0720.