Protecting assets during your lifetime
Asset preservation is critical for your long term comfort and peace of mind. Life unfolds unpredictably and anyone can end up sitting on the losing side of a lawsuit or a creditor’s claim.
These events can wreak havoc on your financial stability and even see you homeless.
Asset preservation focuses on creating legal barriers between you and your creditors, potentially preventing them from seizing your assets.
This process could involve creating trusts or using other legal tools to secure your property.
Many people do not realize that Florida is one of the best states in the country for asset protection. When clients move to Florida from out of state, one of the first things we do is sit down and make sure that they are taking the full advantage of Florida legislation to preserve their assets.
Appointing proper agents for your estate planning documents
One of the most important decisions when creating an estate plan is who you appoint to serve as your agent. Agents are those people that you choose to serve as your Personal Representative/Executor, Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, or Trustee.
These people will step into your shoes and act on your behalf if you are incapable of managing your own affairs, are incapacitated, or are deceased. They will make important, potentially life changing decisions regarding your health care, your children, your business, your finances and any of your other affairs.
Agents can be your family members, close friends, or professionals such as attorneys, bankers, or corporate institutions.
But whoever you name as your agent needs to be someone who you trust and who has the skills necessary to carry out your wishes. Appointing the wrong agent can ruin an otherwise bulletproof estate plan.
Protecting assets for your beneficiaries
A well-drafted estate plan will protect your assets for your beneficiaries.
If you pass and your assets are distributed outright through a poorly drafted estate plan or through beneficiary designation (e.g. a pay on death bank account), then those assets distributed outright to the beneficiary can be fair game to your beneficiaries’ creditors. These creditors can be from a current lawsuit, a divorced spouse, or a potential lawsuit stemming from financial debt, a car accident, or malpractice.
Proper trust planning for your beneficiaries can provide a legal barrier between the assets and any potential creditors. This barrier will protect the assets you pass to your beneficiaries by deterring creditors such as a divorce or lawsuit.
Protecting your assets during your lifetime and beyond as they pass down to your heirs is a key part of your estate plan. And your beneficiaries will thank you.
Protecting you during your lifetime if you are incapacitated
A well drafted estate plan will protect you during your lifetime if you are impaired or incapacitated.
Incapacity can happen to anyone at any age due to any number of accidents or injuries. You may be left unable to make important decisions about your life or health care or finances. Someone will need to step into your shoes and make decisions on your behalf regarding your health care and finances.
If there is no designated person, your friends or family will need to seek a guardianship from the court. This is a time-consuming and stressful court procedure that involves expensive attorney fees and court costs. The court may also appoint a guardian that you may not have wanted to serve.
It is important for anyone over the age of 18 to have a well-drafted Health Care Surrogate and Power of Attorneys. These documents when drafted properly will allow your agents to step into your shoes and make all of the decisions necessary to protect you.
Distributing assets to your beneficiaries in an efficient and cost-effective manner
Distributing assets after you pass should be both cost-effective and efficient.
Many clients either do not have a will or have a very basic will. In either case, should they pass, the assets they intend to pass down to their beneficiaries, including their home, will have to go through probate.
Probate is a court controlled process where the court formally transfers your assets to your beneficiaries. It’s very expensive, time-consuming, and a headache for both your beneficiaries and your attorney. The full procedure may extend for a full year and sometimes more depending on how busy the court is. Your beneficiaries will need to pay from your estate the court fees, attorney fees, and personal representative/executor fees. As a result, the value of your assets passing to your beneficiaries may be significantly reduced due to probate.
A well drafted estate plan avoids the probate process entirely. This allows your beneficiaries to avoid paying thousands in court fees, attorney fees, and personal representative/executor fees and allows your beneficiaries to quickly receive assets.