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Palm Beach Estate Planning Blog

You can avoid a guardianship with other estate planning documents

The average age of the population across the country, including here in Palm Beach, is on the rise. People are living longer due to advances in the medical field, which many would agree is a good thing. However, with this comes the possibility of spending the last days of life suffering from a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease in which individuals are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. Those with an estate plan in place could avoid the need for a guardianship.

If this appeals to you, then you may want to take the time to add powers of attorney to your estate plan. These documents allow someone to step into your shoes, take care of your financial affairs and make health care decisions for you when you cannot. Without these documents, your family members would need to go to court in order to obtain the right to make these decisions on your behalf.

Estate planning tips for same-sex couples

Estate planning is a necessary undertaking for any couple. Each couple has unique circumstances that require different considerations. Finances, family dynamics and personal goals may impact how you plan your estate.

As a same-sex couple, your sexual orientation or gender identity may make the estate planning process even more unique. Here are some essential estate planning tips for LGBT couples. 

Setting the record straight about revocable living trusts

Potential estate planners here in Palm Beach probably already know not to believe everything they hear or read. This applies to revocable living trusts as well. A lot of information out there regarding this useful document could mislead people into either avoiding it or using it when it would not best suit their interests and purposes.

For example, people should not be misled into believing that simply executing a trust means that the estate will not go through probate. A trust requires "funding" before any of an individual's assets receive protection from probate. Funding is the process by which assets such as accounts and real estate are transferred into the name of the trust. If the transfers are done properly, those assets avoid the probate process.

Are your documents ready for trust and probate administration?

If you created an estate plan, you are well ahead of many Palm Beach residents. You took the time to plan what you want to happen during trust and probate administration after your death. However, depending on what has happened in your life since you created that plan, it may no longer accomplish your goals and make the process easier for those you will leave behind.

No matter how well-structured your estate plan was when you created it, major events in your life could require some revision to it. For instance, if a child was born, you got divorced or you became estranged from a child, you may need to rethink portions of your plan. The beginning of the year is a good time to review your these documents to make sure they still apply to your current situation and family dynamic.

Divorce, wills and other estate-planning documents

Divorce is a time of many changes for those going through it, whether here in Palm Beach or elsewhere. With numerous tasks to attend to prior to the conclusion of the divorce process, it can be easy to forget that any wills and other estate-planning documents probably require changes. Since no one can predict the future, the sooner these documents are reviewed and appropriately changed, the better.

Palm Beach residents should be aware of the fact that as long as they remain legally married, a future former spouse could still obtain control over various aspects of their estates until the divorce is final. The existence of the divorce proceedings is not necessarily enough to keep the other party from gaining this control. This might include powers of attorney that appointed the other party as the agent.

Do trusts provide advantages that wills don't?

When Palm Beach residents talk to anyone about estate planning, one of the first things they probably hear is that they need a will. While that is good advice, other circumstances involved could require more than just a last will and testament. Trusts have certain benefits that wills cannot provide, and whether to use them depends on the goals and wishes of the individual considering them.

One of the most popular trusts is the revocable living trust. It is formed during an individual's lifetime and can be changed, modified or even cancelled as long as the maker (also called the trustor) is alive and not incapacitated. Wills can also be changed, but they do not provide an incapacitated person with any benefits. A revocable living trust can provide financial stability during such a time since the successor trustee can simply step in and take over the management of the assets in the trust.

Does your debt die with you?

When drafting a will in Palm Beach, accounting for all of your assets may seem an obvious step. Having a solid plan for the disbursement of your assets after you die should take a relatively high spot on your to-do list.

What happens to your debts upon your death? Are there directives that need to go in your will? Some debtors receive payment out of your estate. Find out what is paid and what can bleed your estate dry.

Beneficiary designations can affect estate administration

Palm Beach parents do what they can to protect and provide for their children. For those who want to make sure they continue to do so in the event of their death, they may decide to take out a life insurance policy that benefits the children. The way that the beneficiary designation for a policy is done has a profound effect on estate administration if the children are minors when the policyholder passes away.

Some people make the mistake of listing their child as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. While this may make a Palm Beach parent feel good, it could cause significant issues if the parent passes away while the child is still a minor. This is because minors cannot directly inherit property, which means that arrangements will need to be made to hold the proceeds from the life insurance policy for the child.

Probate administration: Make a list and check it twice

When it comes to closing out the estate of a deceased loved one, numerous tasks require the attention of surviving family members. In order to make sure that nothing is missed during the Palm Beach probate administration process, it would probably make sense to make a list and check it often. As tasks are completed, they can be marked off the list.

Whether it is an executor or another family member, someone needs to inform -- well -- everyone of the death. This means creditors, banks, the Social Security Administration and anyone else that requires notification. The sooner this task is completed, the better, since failing to do so in a timely manner could cost the estate money, which would reduce the amount of distributions later.

Were digital assets accounted for in estate-planning documents?

One of the primary duties of a Palm Beach executor is gathering all of the decedent's property. In most cases, he or she can look to the estate-planning documents for clues as to what property there is and where it may be located. However, if a plan fails to include the digital assets, then matters could get more complicated.

Most people have at least some small online presence, but they may not think it is important to account for that presence in estate planning documents. Many Palm Beach residents are tech savvy, but still consider only physical assets as those that need to be dealt with upon death. Believe it or not, even a Facebook or Twitter account will require some sort of disposition after death.

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