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Three Common Estate Planning Mistakes

An estate planning lawyer at Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. can help determine what type of estate plan is best for you and your family. We also can answer your questions and assist you in choosing the different elements of a comprehensive estate plan that meet your needs.

Individuals often make three major mistakes concerning the estate planning process that could have adverse consequences for their surviving family members. By becoming aware of these potential missteps, you can avoid the negative implications they are likely to create. In addition, avoiding these mistakes may also enable you to reduce the time and expenses your loved ones must spend handling your affairs.

  1. Failing to Have an Estate Plan

Everyone can benefit from an estate plan, no matter how large or small your estate may be. For instance, paying reasonable fees to your personal representative and the attorney for your estate is routine when you cannot avoid probate. These fees take away from the assets that will go to your heirs. If you have no probate estate, then these fees are unnecessary.

Similarly, probate litigation can drag out for months and, in some cases, years. Lengthy probate court proceedings will not achieve your objective of getting your assets into the hands of your heirs, who likely need them for support.

Furthermore, if you pass away with no will in place, not only must you open an estate, which triggers the payment of certain fees, but Florida’s intestacy laws govern how your assets are divided. Unfortunately, you may not know how property is distributed under intestacy laws. For example, if you are married and passed away without a will, you might assume that all your assets would go to your surviving spouse. However, this is not always the case. For example, under Florida Statutes §732.102, your surviving spouse receives only half of your intestate estate if you have a child from a previous relationship. If this is not what you want to happen, then only an estate plan can prevent this result.

  1. Avoiding Decisions About Incapacity

When you think of estate planning, you might focus on documents such as wills, which govern the disposition of your property after your death. However, estate planning also encompasses decisions about what you want to happen if you become incapacitated or incompetent during your lifetime. These documents may include advance health care directives, durable powers of attorney, and living wills.

A durable power of attorney allows you to designate a person to act on your behalf in managing your property and financial affairs if you become unable to handle them on your own. Likewise, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows you to choose someone to make medical and other health care decisions if you become incapable of making those decisions on your own. Otherwise, your family will have to go through the often lengthy and expensive process of having a court appoint a legal guardian for you.

Likewise, executing a living will allows you to decide in advance whether and what life-prolonging measures you want to receive – or not receive – if you are terminally ill, in an end-stage medical condition, or a persistent vegetative state. Moreover, taking this step prevents your loved ones from making this emotionally difficult decision at a highly stressful and unexpected time.

  1. Forgetting to Regularly Review and Update Your Estate Plan

Too many people believe that their work is done once they complete an estate plan. However, facts and situations can change drastically over time. Regularly reviewing your estate plan can help ensure that it represents your wishes and does not omit any assets or issues you need to address.

For instance, personal life events, such as birth, adoption, death, marriage, divorce, etc., should always trigger a review of your estate plan. In addition to changing named guardians, personal representatives, and heirs in your estate planning documents, you may need to update beneficiaries on non-probate assets, such as retirement plans and life insurance policies.

Changes in your professional life also may necessitate changes in your estate plan. For example, if you open a business, you should have a succession or other written plan for the business. This plan would become operational should you unexpectedly pass away or become incapacitated and unable to operate the business.

Contact Our Office Today for All Your Estate Planning Needs

At Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A., an estate planning attorney can provide you with a full range of estate planning services. In addition, if you lose a loved one, we are here to assist you with all estate-related needs.

We can guide your family through the complicated legal landscape of estate planning law as quickly and efficiently as possible. Call us at (954) 966-2112 or learn more about the legal services we can offer you online. Schedule an appointment to talk to us about your legal needs right away.

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