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Florida estate plans can help preserve family values

Some West Palm Beach readers may themselves among the growing number of Americans who want to leave a legacy to heirs that involves more than simply handing down cash and assets. Floridians are increasingly choosing to include charitable organizations in their estate plans, but many also hope to impart personal values as an element of their estate planning goals.

Though some have begun to describe this values-oriented approach as "spiritual" estate planning, the underlying goal is simply to incorporate purposes other than financial goals into testamentary gifts. Rather than rely exclusively on a will, for example, some parents who want teach their children principles of frugality have elected to pass on inheritances through trusts that impose restrictions on the distribution of assets or the manner in which assets may be used. Purposefully crafted trusts can also offer the additional benefit of providing some protection from claims by creditors.

The increasing trend toward blended families also factors in to the rise in more creative estate planning techniques. Individuals with children from prior relationships, for example, may want to establish gifts that ensure none of their children will be excluded from an inheritance. Conversely, step-parents may want to make bequests that acknowledge their affection for step-children.

Whether or not one chooses to apply the moniker of "spiritual" estate planning, the fact is that Florida probate law offers a wide variety of options to tailor estate bequests to a person's individual needs and desires. An experienced estate planning professional can explain the available options and help a person choose the best methods for accomplishing personal goals.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "'Spiritual' estate planning on rise," Donna Gehrke-White, Nov. 11, 2012

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