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Florida residents - think about estate planning sooner, not later

Very few people like to think about their own deaths. Because of this, many Florida residents put off making plans for what will happen to their property. While estate planning may be an uncomfortable subject, it is one every adult should consider.

The most basic part of an estate plan is a will. This document provides for a distribution of a person's assets to one or various parties upon death. It also can be used for parents with minor children to name a trusted individual to be a guardian for the kids, if something happens to their parents.

The biggest drawback to a will is that it often will have to go through probate, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. One way to avoid this is to create a revocable trust that is funded prior to death. This means that assets may need to be conveyed to the trust during the planner's lifetime. A trust might be a consideration for those wishing to protect assets against their heir's creditors as well.

Not all aspects of an estate plan deal with the physical death of the planner. Two important documents in particular are meant to prepare for the incapacity of the person creating the plan, should that happen during life. First, powers of attorney, if properly drafted, will allow a trusted person to make decisions affecting the planner's business and assets in case that person is not able to make them for themself. There has been a recent change to powers of attorney law in Florida, so everyone should make certain that their documents conform to the most recent law.

Secondly, a healthcare proxy will allow a planner to designate a person to make medical decisions in case of the grantor's incapacity. A "living will" is a document that makes known the planner's wishes with regard to certain types of life-sustaining or "extraordinary" medical measures, and when they should no longer be implemented. This document can take some of the pressure off loved ones that would otherwise have to decide when to stop certain treatments.

It is very important that people ensure that their estate planning documents are up to date and will continue to function the way they were intended. This is especially true for Floridians who have moved to the state from elsewhere, as estate planning laws can vary from state to state. While it may be an uncomfortable subject, it is better to be prepared with an estate plan as soon as possible, rather than waiting until it is too late.

Source:, "ESTATE PLANNING," Robert D. Schwartz, Sept. 19, 2013

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