It is never easy to talk about the end of your life, much less plan for it. However, the decisions you make now could substantially impact the lives of those you care about after you are gone. Developing an estate plan could reduce stress and simplify things for your loved ones after your passing.
An Ocala wills, trusts, and probate lawyer with Bogin, Munns & Munns can help you make the important decisions that go into a viable estate plan. Developing documents like wills and trusts could simplify the probate process or even help your family avoid it entirely.
What Is a Will?
A will—more formally known as a last will and testament—is the legal document at the center of most estate plans.
The requirements for a valid will under Florida law are simple. A will must be in writing and signed by the creator. It must also be created by a competent person. Competence means a person who is of sound mind that is at least 18 years old. In addition to signing the will themselves, the creator must also sign in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the will, testifying to their presence.
Once created, wills can be amended or revoked. This process generally requires a new legal document that meets all the qualifications of a will. A will could be replaced by an entirely new document, or new terms could be added to an existing will. A will can also be revoked entirely, rendering it no longer valid under state law.
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What Is a Trust?
Like wills, trusts are important estate planning tools. A trust is a legal entity that is created by transferring an asset from your possession to the entity. Trusts can hold your assets for a number of reasons. They are often used to simplify the division of a person’s assets after their death. There are also certain tax advantages that come with using a trust.
For the purposes of estate planning, the most common type of trust is the living trust. These trusts are created with assets the creator owned during their life. Trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable, meaning they could be amended or revoked entirely by the creator.
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What Is Probate?
Probate is a court process where a judge determines how to divide an individual’s assets following their death. The court will oversee the distribution of your assets and whether you had a valid last will and testament at the time of your passing.
If a valid will is in place, the court must distribute assets as the will specifies. Without a will, a judge will follow state guidelines for intestate succession to determine which family members are set to inherit.
In either situation, the court will appoint a personal representative to oversee the process. Also known as an executor, this person is typically appointed in a person’s last will and testament. If no will is present, the court will choose someone to fill the role.
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The Benefits of Avoiding Probate
One of the primary reasons for relying on trusts during the estate planning process is to avoid probate entirely. When you work with an Ocala attorney from our firm, you could develop an estate plan that relies on wills and trusts to limit or avoid probate, which could allow your loved ones to distribute your estate with less stress and worry.
Timely Transfer of Wealth
A major benefit of avoiding probate is the time your loved ones can save. Dividing your assets in probate court can take months or longer. Your family could face financial strain during that period as they wait for the probate process to pay out. By relying on trusts and other estate planning tools, your wealth could be transferred immediately upon your passing without dealing with probate at all.
Probate is not only costly in terms of time but in terms of money as well. There are court costs and other fees that go into the probate process, and those expenses could be avoided.
Probate cases play out in public court hearings. For families that value their privacy, this is not ideal. In some cases, the details of how your wealth is transferred could be a matter of public record. Distributing your assets outside of the probate process protects your family’s privacy.
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How Can Our Ocala Wills, Trusts, and Probate Lawyer Help?
You do not have to take on the process of estate planning alone. There are many different ways that an attorney could help, including:
Cataloging Your Assets
To determine how your assets should be divided, it is important to list and catalog everything you own. Leaving an asset out of your estate plan could be a major issue, as it could force your beneficiaries to go through probate for that single asset.
Identify and Update Beneficiaries
Your beneficiaries are the parties set to inherit your assets after you die. Picking these individuals is not a one-off decision, as it is important to review your beneficiaries regularly.
Drafting Important Documents
Countless documents could be used to make up your estate plan. Each plays its role in the process, and a mistake on any of these documents could have significant consequences. Your attorney could draft your will, advanced healthcare directive, or trust documents to ensure your wishes are adhered to in the future.
Our Ocala Attorney Can Help You With Wills, Trusts, or the Probate Process
While few people relish the process of estate planning, doing so could provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are ready for the future. Relying on wills and trusts to navigate or avoid the probate process could provide you with crucial support for your loved ones after your death.
The Bogin, Munns & Munns team understands how important this process is to you. Reach out to our Ocala wills, trusts, and probate lawyer as soon as possible for your private consultation.