In life, we often put off important tasks, believing there’s time to address them later. But, when it comes to something as important as estate planning, procrastination can lead to unintended consequences.
At Stivers Law, we firmly believe that it’s never too early to start planning for the future.
Estate planning isn’t just about distributing assets; it’s about ensuring your loved ones are protected, your wishes are honored, and your legacy endures. Many people mistakenly assume they can delay this critical task, only to find themselves in vulnerable positions later in life.
By consulting with our Coral Gables estate planning attorneys today, you take a proactive step towards safeguarding your future. Don’t wait until circumstances force you to make hasty decisions; be prepared and gain peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order.
What Does An Estate Planning Attorney Do?
While most people have a general idea of what estate planning is, many still don’t know when to hire an attorney or what they offer.
To help make sure you get the guidance and assistance you need when you need it, here are a few ways our estate planning attorneys help you:
- Creating your initial estate plan. The most well-known way an estate planning attorney can help you is during the creation of your initial estate plan. Once that plan is in place, however, you will want to continue to nurture your relationship with your attorney throughout your lifetime if for no other reason than because you will likely need to make important changes to your estate plan, and it is best to have an attorney who knows you and your assets on your side.
- Administering (probating) and estate. When someone dies, their estate must go through the legal process known as “probate” following the death. If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament before death, the individual named Executor in the Will is responsible for overseeing the estate’s probate. If the decedent died intestate, someone must volunteer to oversee the administration. Either way, it can be a complex and time-consuming job, which is why most Executors turn to an estate planning lawyer for help.
- Contesting a Will. The loss of a loved one is never easy to accept; however, the grieving process can be worse if you believe that the Last Will and Testament submitted for probate is invalid. If you find yourself in such a position, an estate planning attorney can help you contest the Will.
- Legacy planning. Legacy planning takes estate planning one step further by weaving your philosophies, beliefs, and faith into your estate plan so that they, too, might be passed down to the next generation.
- Long-term care (Medicaid) planning. There is a very good chance that you will one day need long-term care (LTC) – and the odds increase dramatically the longer you live. For the average person, the cost of LTC can be prohibitive, given that neither Medicare nor basic healthcare insurance will cover LTC costs. Medicaid will cover LTC expenses if you qualify. An estate planning attorney can help ensure that you qualify through Medicaid planning tools and strategies.
- Planning for the possibility of incapacity. Incapacity can strike anyone at any age. If you become incapacitated, who will control your assets and make medical decisions for you? If you want to be the one to decide, you need to plan for the possibility.
- Planning for a child with special needs. Any direct gift left to a child with special needs could jeopardize much-needed assistance from programs such as Medicaid and SSI. Creating a special needs trust can protect it while allowing your child to maintain eligibility for state and federal assistance programs.
- Administering a trust. If you suddenly find yourself faced with the prospect of administering a trust because the Settlor appointed you to be the Trustee, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. The good news is that an estate planning attorney can help you fulfill your duties and responsibilities as a Trustee.
- Elder abuse and neglect. Deciding that nursing home care is the best option for an elderly parent (or another loved one) is not an easy decision to make. If you begin to suspect elderly abuse or neglect after your parent is settled, it can be heartbreaking. At that point, the best thing to do is to contact your estate planning attorney, who is experienced in elder law, to decide how best to proceed.
- Petitioning for guardianship/conservatorship of an older loved one. At some point in your life, you may realize that a parent is no longer able to safely make decisions or handle their finances. At that point, it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship. The decision and the subsequent legal process can be emotionally exhausting and time-consuming. To make it easier on you, ask your estate planning lawyer for help.
We all recognize the importance of planning for the future, yet the path to effective estate planning can often feel shrouded in mystery. Even if you understand the importance, taking that first step can be daunting.
You may wonder where to begin or how to navigate the complexities that lie ahead.
At Stivers Law, we understand that estate planning can be unfamiliar territory, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way.
Our Estate Planning Services
Estate planning is a deeply personal and multifaceted journey. That’s why our comprehensive suite of estate planning services is designed to provide you with the guidance and peace of mind you need to secure your legacy.
Whether you’re seeking to create a will or trust, navigate probate, or explore other specialized areas of estate planning, our team is here to assist you every step of the way, empowering you to protect your assets, provide for your loved ones, and ensure your wishes are honored.
A well-drafted will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. They serve as a means for individuals to articulate their final wishes regarding the distribution of assets, guardianship arrangements for minor children, and other important matters upon their passing.
Wills provide a clear and legally binding way to communicate how you want your assets to be divided among your chosen heirs or beneficiaries. Whether you have a modest estate or significant assets, a will ensures that your intentions are documented and honored.
However, wills are typically subject to the probate process, which can lead to delays, expenses, and public record disclosures. However, proper estate planning can help streamline the probate process, or completely avoid it, minimizing its impact on your estate.
A trust is a versatile legal tool that holds and manages assets for the benefit of specific individuals or entities, known as beneficiaries. Trusts can play a central role in your estate plan, offering various advantages, including asset protection, privacy, and control over asset distribution.
When you create a trust, you transfer assets into the trust’s ownership, which is managed by a trustee. The trustee is legally bound to administer the trust according to its terms and in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable, each with its own benefits and limitations.
Some of the most common benefits associated with trusts include:
- Avoiding Probate: Trusts are powerful tools for bypassing the probate process entirely, allowing for faster and more private asset distribution.
- Privacy: Unlike wills, trusts remain private documents, keeping your estate details out of the public record.
- Asset Protection: Certain types of trusts, such as irrevocable trusts, can shield assets from creditors and legal claims, safeguarding your wealth for your intended heirs.
- Tax Efficiency: Trusts can be structured to minimize estate taxes, preserving more of your assets for your loved ones.
- Control: With a trust, you can specify when and how your assets are distributed, giving you greater control over your legacy.
Contrary to popular belief, trusts aren’t reserved for the uber-rich and can be tailored to suit a range of assets and beneficiary arrangements. Different trust types serve different purposes. Understanding the nuances of revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and specialized trusts like special needs trusts is essential to crafting a tailored estate plan that meets your specific needs and goals.
Incorporating trusts into your estate plan can be a strategic way to achieve your objectives while safeguarding your legacy. Our estate planning attorneys will help you explore trust options that align with your financial situation and family dynamics.
Probate is a legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries, and their debts are settled. It involves the validation of the will (if one exists) and the administration of the estate under the supervision of the court.
While probate serves a valuable purpose in ensuring a fair distribution of assets, many people seek to avoid it for several reasons:
- Time-Consuming: Probate can be a lengthy process, often taking several months or even years to complete, causing delays in the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Costly: Legal fees, court costs, and executor fees can significantly reduce the estate’s value during probate, leaving less for your loved ones.
- Public Record: Probate proceedings are public, meaning that your estate’s details become accessible to anyone who wishes to review them.
That said, there are actually several ways to avoid probate, including thorough estate planning. The threshold for probate in Coral Gables, FL, is $75,000. If the total value of the deceased person’s assets is below this amount, their estate may be eligible for a simplified probate process known as “summary administration.”
However, if the estate surpasses this threshold, it will likely go through the standard probate process. Using estate planning strategies, we can help you shield your assets so that they’re not countable toward the probate threshold, saving your family time and money.
Trust administration is a critical component of estate planning aimed at efficiently managing and distributing your assets to your chosen beneficiaries. Trust administration is a vital aspect of estate planning that involves the efficient management and distribution of assets held within a trust. It is the process by which the trustee carries out the grantor’s wishes and ensures the beneficiaries receive their rightful inheritances.
When the grantor passes away, the duty falls on the shoulders of the trustee outlined in the trust document. This person will be responsible for a wide range of tasks, including:
- Asset Management: The trustee manages trust assets, ensuring they are invested and maintained appropriately to benefit the beneficiaries.
- Communication with Beneficiaries: The trustee communicates with beneficiaries, keeping them informed about trust matters, including distributions and financial performance.
- Record-Keeping: Detailed records of trust transactions and activities are maintained by the trustee to provide transparency and accountability.
- Legal Compliance: The trustee ensures that all trust activities align with state laws and regulations.
These are big shoes to fill, and often, trustees and beneficiaries will seek the assistance of a skilled trust administrator to walk them through the process.
Proper trust administration requires careful attention to detail, knowledge of state laws, and a commitment to fulfilling the grantor’s intentions. At Stivers Law, our experienced estate planning attorneys specialize in trust administration, guiding both trustees and beneficiaries through the process.
Special Needs Planning
Caring for a loved one with special needs requires careful planning. Special needs planning is a critical aspect of estate planning that focuses on providing for the physical and financial well-being and care of loved ones with disabilities or special needs, even after you’re no longer able to do so yourself.
The reality is that if you leave assets to a loved one with special needs, these assets can be counted toward their eligibility for benefits like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and other much-needed government assistance. By planning for their well-being ahead of time, you can still leave an inheritance for your loved one without compromising their eligibility.
Some common special needs planning strategies include:
- Special Needs Trusts: Establishing a special needs trust allows you to set aside funds for the benefit of your disabled loved one without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.
- Letter of Intent: A letter of intent provides instructions and details about your loved one’s care, preferences, and routines, ensuring their future caregivers have the information they need to provide the best possible care.
At Stivers Law, we take special care in helping families create custom special needs planning solutions that provide for the long-term well-being of their vulnerable loved ones. We understand the unique challenges and considerations involved in these cases and are here to guide you every step of the way.
Further Resources for Your Estate Planning Journey
In addition to the core services listed above, we offer a wide range of specialized estate planning services to cater to your unique needs:
- Estate and Gift Tax Figures: Understanding the tax implications of your estate plan is essential to maximize your assets for your heirs.
- Secure Act: Stay informed about the latest changes in retirement and estate planning laws.
- Financial Planning Assistance: Achieve your financial goals while safeguarding your legacy.
- Pet Planning: Ensure the well-being of your furry friends in your estate plan.
- Inheritance Planning: Plan for the efficient transfer of your assets to the next generation.
- Guardianship: Make provisions for the care of your children in case of unforeseen circumstances.
- Business Succession Planning: Secure the future of your business and your family.
- Incapacity Planning: Ensure that your wishes are followed in the event of incapacitation.
- LGBTQ Estate Planning: Tailored estate planning services for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Remarriage & Blended Families: Address unique challenges of blended families, ensuring fair distribution of assets.
- Minor Children and Young Adult Planning: Create an estate plan that includes provisions for the care, financial support, and guardianship of minor children and young adults.
- Outdated Estate Planning Documents: Review and update your estate planning documents regularly to reflect changes in your life.
At Stivers Law, our mission is to provide you with the guidance and support you need to make informed decisions about your estate planning. We are dedicated to serving the Coral Gables community with genuine care and professionalism.
As you embark on your estate planning journey, remember that you’re not alone. We’re here to help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your legacy is secure. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorney. Your future and the future of your loved ones deserve nothing less than the best.
Contact Our Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorney
Your legacy and the financial security of your loved ones deserve the utmost attention and care. The time to act is now. Our team at Stivers Law is ready to partner with you on this crucial journey towards comprehensive estate planning.
From wills and trusts to specialized services like special needs planning, we’re equipped with the knowledge and compassion to ensure your wishes are honored. Don’t delay securing your future and your family’s well-being. Contact us today, and let’s start crafting a tailored estate plan that reflects your values and protects your assets. Your peace of mind awaits – take the first step now.