Estate planning is about assets, certainly, but it is also about something more: how one's life's work will continue to affect others once one is gone. Or, to put it more simply, what one leaves as a legacy.
The easiest way for Florida residents to control, at least to some extent, how their legacy is viewed, is by having a sound estate plan. This includes not just the monetary issues of how to distribute the assets accumulated over a lifetime, but also how one handles the end of one's own life, and minimizes the burdens placed on others.
To leave a sound legacy, one should think ahead, and know who should be put in charge of various aspects of one's care in the case that one becomes incapacitated. This means deciding whom to give power of attorney to over the financial affairs of the estate, and choosing someone to act as a healthcare proxy to make informed medical decisions. An advance medical directive or living will is an important step as well, to ensure that one's wishes are clearly defined with regard to end of life care.
Clear statement of one's wishes is important in wealth management as well. A well-written and properly executed will goes a long way toward ending potential probate squabbles before they start. Knowing what assets will be left over after debts are paid is an essential step in this regard, as well as planning for any taxes that might accrue. A trust may be called for to attempt to avoid probate as much as possible, if only to save one's heirs the time and expense of probate.
Most important, however, is knowledge. Knowing what one's legal options are, and what is the best course to take to implement one's wishes will be a big step to being able to make decisions about the issues outlined above. Because of this, Florida residents may consider consulting a legal professional who is experienced in the estate planning field. Knowing who to go to for advice is an indispensable part of making sure one leaves a positive, lasting legacy.
Source: ARLnow.com, "Money Monday: Getting Started With Estate Planning," Momodou Bojang, March 24, 2014