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End the Year Right: Your Checklist for Estate Planning in Florida

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End the Year Right: Your Checklist for Estate Planning in Florida

December 15, 2023
Geoff Hoatson

As the year draws to a close, it's the perfect opportunity to ensure you're ending it on a strong note. One of the most effective ways to do this is by reviewing and updating your estate plan. While estate planning might not be the first thing that comes to mind for holiday activities, it's a crucial step in securing peace of mind for the new year. This review ensures that your wishes are clearly laid out and your loved ones are protected.

With that in mind, a member of our Winter Park estate planning attorney team has created a detailed checklist to confirm whether your estate plan is current and aligns with any recent changes in your life or finances. This practical tool is here to guide you, whether you're updating existing documents or considering new ones. 

Should you need more personalized assistance or have specific questions about estate planning in Florida, the Family First Firm team is ready to help. Feel free to reach out to us at (407) 574-8125. Let's make sure your estate plan is set for the new year!

At Family First Firm, we’re always by your side to provide simple yet creative legal solutions to protect your family’s legacy

Review and Update Personal Information

Moving into the specifics of your estate plan, a crucial starting point is your personal information. Ensure your estate plan accurately reflects your current life circumstances. This includes:

  • Updating Personal Details: Review and update names, including any changes due to marriage or divorce, and ensure they are consistent across all documents.
  • Addresses: Confirm current physical and mailing addresses, especially if you have moved or own multiple properties.
  • Family Changes: Add new family members, like births or adoptions, and remove deceased family members from your documents.
  • Contact Information: Update phone numbers and email addresses to ensure you and your beneficiaries can be easily contacted.
  • Employment and Business Changes: Include any significant changes in your employment status or business interests, as they may impact your estate.
  • Citizenship and Residency Status: If there have been changes in your citizenship or residency, especially for those living in Florida part of the year, update these details as they can affect tax and legal implications.

Review Will and Trust Documents

Regular review of these documents is crucial to ensure they effectively carry out your estate planning goals.

  • Validity and Currency: Confirm that your will and any trust documents are not only legally valid but also up-to-date with current laws and regulations. This is especially important if you've created a DIY will, as you'll want to ensure it meets all legal standards and accurately reflects your intentions.
  • Reflect Present Wishes: Double-check that these documents accurately reflect your current wishes, especially if there have been significant life changes such as marriages, divorces, births, or deaths in the family.
  • Property and Assets: Ensure all your assets, including newly acquired ones, are properly included and distributed according to your intentions.
  • Guardianships and Trustees: Review and confirm your choices for guardians of minor children and trustees.
  • Learn About Comprehensive Plans: Inquire about our Essential and Family Fortress Plans for a more robust estate planning approach.

Check Beneficiary Designations

It’s important to regularly review and update these designations, as they can override instructions in wills and trusts.

  • Life Insurance Policies: Verify that the beneficiaries listed on all your life insurance policies are current and reflect your current wishes.
  • Retirement Accounts: Review beneficiary designations on retirement accounts like 401(k)s, IRAs, and pensions to ensure they align with your estate plan.
  • Bank and Investment Accounts: Check payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) designations on bank accounts and investment portfolios.
  • Real Estate and Other Assets: For assets like real estate or vehicles, confirm that any TOD deeds or titles are up to date.
  • Consistency with Estate Plan: Make sure that all these beneficiary designations complement and do not contradict your overall estate plan.

Establish Advance Directives

Consider setting up these essential documents if you haven’t already, as they provide crucial guidance for your loved ones and healthcare professionals in critical situations.

  • Power of Attorney: Designate someone to handle your financial and legal affairs if you're unable to do so. This includes decisions about property, finances, and legal matters.
  • Designation of Healthcare Surrogate: Appoint a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This ensures that your healthcare preferences are respected.
  • Living Will: Create a living will to outline your preferences for medical treatments and end-of-life care. This document speaks for you when you cannot communicate your wishes.

Review Asset Inventory and Ownership Forms

Regularly updating your asset inventory and understanding the ownership forms are key to effective estate management and planning.

  • List All Assets: Compile a comprehensive list of your assets, including real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, personal property, and more.
  • Ownership Structure: Verify how each asset is owned (individually, jointly, in a trust, etc.), as this affects how they will be managed or transferred.
  • Documentation Accuracy: Ensure all ownership documents are up-to-date and accurately reflect your current situation. This includes deeds, titles, and account records.
  • Asset Changes: Note any significant changes in asset values or new assets acquired during the year.

Evaluate Long-Term Care Plans and Insurance

Regular assessment of your long-term care strategy is crucial to ensure you are adequately prepared for future healthcare needs.

  • Current Long-Term Care Insurance: Review any existing long-term care insurance policies to understand the coverage and limitations.
  • Future Care Needs Assessment: Consider potential future healthcare needs and whether your current plan sufficiently addresses them.
  • Medicaid Planning: Understand how Medicaid factors into your long-term care planning and what they cover. Familiarize yourself with Medicaid's 5-year lookback period for asset transfers. Planning ahead can be crucial, as transfers made within this period may affect eligibility for long-term care benefits. Interested in learning more? We invite you to read our “Medicaid 101 Guide.”
  • Alternative Care Options: Explore other long-term care options, such as assisted living or in-home care services, and how they could be financed.

Probate Avoidance Review

Regular estate plan reviews and updates can significantly contribute to a smooth transition of your assets and reduce the burden on your loved ones when you pass.

  • Assess Current Estate Plan for Probate Risks: Examine your estate plan to identify areas that might lead to probate and explore strategies to mitigate them.
  • Use of Trusts: Consider the use of living trusts to bypass probate for your assets.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Ensure that beneficiary designations on accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies are aligned with your estate plan to avoid probate.
  • Inquire About Our Probate Protection Plan: Inquire about our Probate Protection Plan for tailored strategies to shield your estate from the lengthy and often costly probate process.

Think About Your Digital Assets 

Incorporating digital assets into your estate plan is increasingly important in our digital world and ensures no aspect of your life is overlooked in planning.

  • Inventory Digital Assets: Make a list of all your digital assets, including social media accounts, email accounts, online banking, digital wallets, and any other online platforms you use.
  • Access Information: Compile login information, like usernames and passwords, ensuring they are secure yet accessible to someone you trust.
  • Appoint a Digital Executor: Designate a person to manage your digital assets after your passing. This person will handle the closure or maintenance of your online presence as per your wishes.
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations: Understand the legal and ethical implications of accessing and managing digital assets posthumously and incorporate these into your estate plan.

Peace of Mind with Proactive Planning

By following the steps outlined in our estate planning checklist, you can confidently wrap up the year knowing that your estate plan is thorough, up-to-date, and reflective of your current wishes and life circumstances. This proactive approach to estate planning, backed by our detailed checklist, offers invaluable peace of mind for you and ensures the security and well-being of your loved ones.

Secure Your Florida Estate Plan with Family First Firm

If, after reviewing our estate planning checklist, you find areas of your Florida estate plan that need updating or if there are elements you'd like to add, the Family First Firm is here to guide you through every step. Our dedicated team is committed to crafting comprehensive Florida estate plans that cater to your unique needs and goals and safeguard your legacy.

Ready to ensure your estate plan is perfectly aligned with your needs? Schedule a consultation today with our experienced Winter Park estate planning lawyers at Family First Firm. Call us at (407) 574-8125, or simply fill out our online form. Our dedicated team is here to assist you every step of the way in securing your future and the well-being of your loved ones.

At Family First Firm, we’re always by your side to provide simple yet creative legal solutions to protect your family’s legacy

Copyright © 2024. Family First Firm - Medicaid & Elder Law Attorneys. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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