Answers to Estate Planning FAQs
To get a head start on addressing some of the concerns you may have about creating an estate plan, we’ve tried to answer a few of the most common questions people have about the process. When you’re ready to start working on your estate plan, please contact Schwartz | White to schedule a consultation. From our offices in Boca Raton, we provide estate planning services throughout Palm Beach County.
What is an estate plan?
An estate plan is a written set of instructions (comprised of one, several, or many legal documents) for others to manage and take care of your estate if you become unable to for any reason. The process of creating an estate plan allows you to map the future of your assets, protect the wellbeing and security of your loved ones, and avoid court intervention as much as possible.
Why do I need an estate plan?
Estate plans can help you prosper while you’re alive and pass your assets at death with minimal inconvenience and expense to your loved ones. An estate plan can also help preserve your assets by minimizing exposure to estate and inheritance taxes. For example:
Powers of attorney and advance directives for a health care surrogate allow you to appoint one or more individuals to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Wills for married couples may include provisions that make use of both marital and individual estate tax exemptions.
Parents can designate a guardian for minor children through their wills.
For large estates, limiting the amount of estate tax owed upon death is a good reason to have a comprehensive estate plan—one which may include trusts, charitable planning, or gifting strategies. But for everyone, no matter the size of the estate, estate planning provides a means to deal with uncertainties, provide for the next generation, and protect yourself and your assets.
What happens if I die without an estate plan?
If you die without a will or any other estate planning documents, Florida law has already decided who gets your assets. These laws are called the intestate succession statutes, and they allow a court to choose the guardian of your minor children, distribute your assets according to a hierarchy determined by the Florida legislature, and resolve other issues based on generic legal standards. While these laws attempt to be fair, it’s likely the state will not carry out your wishes in the same fashion as if you had an estate plan.
How will my estate be settled, and who will settle it?
With a valid estate plan in place, your estate will be settled by your personal representative, your successor trustee, or both. If you have a will, your personal representative will take the will through the probate process. If you have a trust, your successor trustee will settle the estate. If you have a will and a trust, both processes will take place.