Estate Planning

As much as we would like to avoid, or deny the thought, all of us will eventually pass from this earth. In addition, unlike the ancient Egyptians, we now realize that we really cannot take our worldly possessions with us when we die.
If we fail to designate our wishes by preparing a will or trust, our property might go to the “Wrong” family member. For example, under Florida Law your estate may be divided between a spouse and your children. If those children are under the age of 18, their share will probably be held by the court until they reach that milestone. A child can receive a lump sum of money over which they now have total control and which you worked a lifetime to accumulate. I do not believe I have to spell out how long that money will last.
A Will allows you to spell out who will get those assets, and when they will receive them. If you have young children, you can put in place an arrangement that will spell out who will manage the assets of the children, the circumstances under which they get “an advance”, and the age at which you feel your children will be mature enough to have complete control over their share. You have the power to name a personal representative, a trustee (if necessary) and a guardian (if there is no parent to take care of your children when you are gone). You can also designate replacements or successors for each of these persons if the original designee cannot or will not perform their duty. Finally, if you have a child with special or unique needs, arrangements can be made to treat that child in a different manner than the other children.
If your assets are greater, or if you desire to avoid the cost and the complications of probate, a Revocable Living Trust might be the preferable estate planning mechanism for you. It is “Revocable” because you have the complete power to make changes in the trust during your lifetime and name a successor trustee to take your place if you are incapacitated or after your death. It is a “Trust”, in which you place your assets during your lifetime so that these assets can easily pass to your family after your death without having to pass through the probate process. You can preserve your privacy because your estate does not become part of the public record. You can preserve more of your assets because the cost of probate is avoided. And if your estate is large enough, proper planning can be used in your trust to minimize estate taxes.
If your estate is large enough, more sophisticated arrangements are available. A Family Limited Partnership can be used to keep a family business in the family while avoiding the probate process and spreading out and therefore reducing the tax burden. A Charitable Remainder Trust can be established to benefit your extended family ad a charitable organization of your choice while reducing your estate taxes at the same time.