After you pass away, all assets in your estate that are not exempt from probate will need to be distributed either pursuant to your wishes (per your Will) or through the default rules contained in Florida’s intestate succession scheme. Also, you will have expenses associated with your estate and someone will need to pay your bills that are outstanding and arrange for the payment of services associated with your passing like funeral bills etc… The probate process is a Florida Court process used to wrap up your affairs. In general terms the Court through the procedural mechanisms in place in Florida will require a proper accounting of all the known assets and liabilities and notice will be given to both your surviving heirs and creditors. After your bills are paid from the estate the assets will be distributed. The person in charge of seeing this process through is called a Personal Representative. That person will either be appointed by the Court or designated through a Will.
If you die without a will in Florida our state has created a mechanism for the distribution of your assets through the probate process called intestate succession. These pre-defined rules will govern the distribution of all non-exempt property pursuant to Florida’s Laws of Intestate succession. These default rules may not be what you had in mind for your family. Further, a Court process will need to be opened in order to administer the distribution of these assets and you will have lost the opportunity to designate who should be in charge of overseeing that process. Unfortunately, the failure to make the correct decision on designating who you would like wrap up your estate can create a large burden on your family members.
If you fail to specify where you would like your items to go when you pass away, the Florida rules of intestate succession will effectively prevent you from giving specific gifts to specific people. Any friend of yours who is a non-relative will receive nothing from your estate. Also, family heirlooms may be lost or forgotten without a specific direction or gift made through your estate plan.
As discussed above, if you fail to pick, the Court will pick for you, the person in charge of wrapping up your affairs and paying all bills and devising your estate. If you fail to choose, the Court may appoint the wrong person or someone who will be burdened by the task.
One of the most important reasons to create an estate plan is for the protection and well being of your children should you pass away. You can designate a guardian for your children to ensure that they are taken care of. Also, more sophisticated estate planning options allow you to create positive incentives for your children after you pass.
If you have a special needs dependent or relative, their care and the decisions on that care needs to be addressed. An estate plan can help you designate the caregiver of your choice.
As we grow older, so do our parents. End of life decisions regarding care need to made before it gets too late. Your estate plan can provide for the continued care of your loved ones after you pass by setting forth directives to ensure the health care services you want for your family are provided.
Believe it or not, the passing of a family member typically comes with some serious financial issues. Although the bills and/or creditor claims will exist independent of your estate plan, the correct planning tools and instruments can enable your descendant’s to quickly gain access to your estate and handle the financial affairs of your family.
Many estate planning tools are available to minimize the extent of the probate process. The smaller your estate that is subject to probate, the easier the administration of your estate on your family members. Selective asset management and the creation of trusts can seriously ease the administrative burden of your passing.
Although you may think that your estate planning only has to do with the distribution of your assets, dealing with your inevitable incapacity is a serious reason to formulate a healthcare proxy and durable power of attorney. Many of us will become mentally incapacitated before we pass away. The decision of who you want to manage your financial affairs and medical choices needs to be made prior to your incapacity.