Did you know that when you begin to create your Florida estate plan, the first step is to think about what you own and who should inherit it at the time of your passing? Now we know that most of us do not want to focus on the need for Florida estate planning, but it is critical to ensure that our goals for our legacy can be reached. From your spouse and your children to your business and the causes you care about, your Florida estate plan can create a legacy that will far outlive your lifetime. 

You need to carefully plan what your legacy may need. Know that not all Florida estate planning tools work the same or can achieve the same results. When you work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney, he can guide you through the process of identifying what you own and the best Florida estate planning tools to use to accomplish your goals. Your Florida estate planning attorney can also help you determine the best way to transfer your hard earned assets to your loved ones at the time of your passing without the need of court involvement, also known as the probate process.

We work with many families who have significant wealth in their retirement accounts. One of the significant benefits of retirement accounts is their tax benefits. You need to be aware that if they are not devised properly through your Florida estate plan, these benefits may be lost. We want to share a few key reasons why these accounts should not go to probate with you right here in our blog.

1. Loss of privacy.  A retirement account for many families represents a significant amount of wealth.  If you do not  name your future beneficiaries correctly, you could place your retirement account at risk of going through the probate process. The probate process is a public process and, as a result of the nature of probate, your retirement account could become subject to potential creditors being able to access these funds to pay your valid end of life debts.

2. Loss of access to wealth. Be aware that the probate process is time consuming. One of the main benefits of transferring assets, such as retirement accounts, outside of probate is to make a seamless transition. Because the probate process is involved, the probate court will determine when the assets being transferred at death are available which could take at least nine months if not longer.

3. Loss of long-term tax savings can be more beneficial. Your retirement planning comes with significant tax planning strategies. Whether you are planning for deferred taxes for yourself or for future generations, it is important to work with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney to make sure you get all of the tax benefits you can. For example, if you plan for much younger beneficiaries as recipients of your retirement accounts then you may be able to stretch out or defer taxes even longer than with a beneficiary who is at a similar age to you. 

Finally, care should be taken when you do not name your spouse as your beneficiary. While not necessarily required for your legacy planning, your spouse should know if he or she will not be the beneficiary of these funds. You will want to have your spouse’s consent in writing and it may be required under your retirement plan terms. Discuss this with your Florida estate planning attorney to make sure you have covered all the bases for the transfer of this account to someone other than your spouse and will not accidentally end up in the probate court.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers.  We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.