Hand Picking Estate Plan Folder

Things to Consider Before You Start Your Estate Plan

Law Offices of David W. Wilcox April 7, 2023

Estate planning to most people means writing a last will and testament and designating who gets what when you’re gone. A will can be a great starting point for estate planning, but you need to consider other options such as a power of attorney for financial affairs and a living will, or advance health care directive. These two legal documents provide protection for you and your loved ones should anything happen to you when, for instance, you become incapacitated. 

The unexpected is always just around the corner. No matter how secure we may feel in our lives and well-being, something can happen that shakes everything up. While a will—or better yet, a living trust—can provide assurances for those you leave behind, a power of attorney and a health care directive can provide safeguards for you while you’re still alive. 

In short, there are many considerations to be taken when creating your estate plan, which we’ll outline in this brief article. Meanwhile, for all your estate planning questions and concerns in or around Bradenton, Florida, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox today.  

Attorney Wilcox has been helping individuals and families create comprehensive estate planning documents for nearly 40 years. Whether you’re just starting out or need a review of the legal documents you’ve already created, reach out, and let’s review your needs and goals, so you and everyone you love can enjoy peace of mind moving forward. The Law Offices of David W. Wilcox also helps clients throughout Matinee County and Sarasota County. 

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning may begin with a last will and testament, but if done comprehensively, estate planning will also cover other eventualities in life that need to be addressed in addition to what happens when you pass on. For instance, if you suddenly become incapacitated, you’ll need to designate someone to take care of your financial and other day-to-day, at-home concerns. This can be done through a power of attorney. 

Also, if you are stricken and hospitalized and unable to voice your medical treatment choices, you’ll want to create a living will and designate someone through a medical power of attorney (known in Florida as the designation of health care surrogate) to convey your choices as contained in your living will.  

A living will contains your preferences for end-of-life or life-threatening treatment. It will contain your medical treatment choices. 

What to Consider When Commencing Estate Planning

Here are some vital considerations you should make when you begin your estate planning, or as you review what you have. Make sure to review it frequently, especially if anything changes in your life. 

Identify Your Goals

This is a sweeping category, and it should include the needs of your loved ones and how you wish to protect them when you’re gone. It should also include consideration of your future, health-wise and financial-wise. If you own a business or are a partner in a business, that too needs to be addressed. 

Survey Your Assets

Remember that only assets held solely by you can be designated for your beneficiaries. If you own a home with a spouse on title, for instance, that home will transfer immediately to the other person on title when you die. If you’ve named someone as your beneficiary on a life insurance policy or retirement account, those assets will pass outside of a will or living trust as well. 

Survey Your Debts

Debts in your name will need to be paid when you’re gone. They will have to be paid from your assets or they can devolve on your family to pay off.  

Consider Whom to Appoint as Executor or Trustee

If you’re just relying on a will to pass along your assets to beneficiaries, you will have to name a personal representative to oversee the process. When that person presents your will to the probate court, they will be named executor. If you’ve set up a living trust, you have to name a successor trustee, who will oversee the distribution of your assets outside of probate court. You need to name someone you trust, whether a family member, a close friend or associate, or even an attorney or estate administration professional to either role. 

Consider Whom to Be Given a Power of Attorney 

If events prevent you from conducting your day-to-day financial and other dealings or force you into a hospital where you can no longer voice your medical choices, you need to create a power of attorney and name someone to conduct your business and voice your medical preferences, though the person could be different for each power of attorney. 

Care for Your Minor Children and Pets

If you have minor children, you can name a guardian in your will (but not in a living trust). If you don’t name someone, the court will. As for pets, you can set up a trust for them. Though they cannot inherit money directly, the trust can provide funds for their care and name someone or some facility to care for them. 

Business Matters

If you own a business or are a partner in a business, you will need to consider establishing a succession plan. A sole proprietorship can be left to a family member or to a trusted employee, who will then buy it from your estate. If you’re a partner, the partnership agreement must specify how your share will be bought or transferred upon your passing. 

Charitable Concerns

If you wish to leave a legacy, you can set up a charitable trust, or designate a charity in your will.  

Rely on Dependable Legal Guidance

The list above really touches only on some major areas. Inevitably, there are other concerns that need to be taken into consideration. The best approach is to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can ask the right questions and point you in the most beneficial direction for you and your loved ones. 

If you’re in or around Bradenton, Florida, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox with all your estate planning needs and concerns. Remember, you’re never too young or too old to begin estate planning, but you can be too late. Reach out today.