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Estate Planning & Probate

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Let the experienced attorneys at Grant Law Partners help plan your estate and guide you through Florida’s probate process.

Estate planning and probate are two interconnected legal processes that deal with the management and distribution of a person’s assets and affairs, particularly after their death. These processes help individuals plan for the transfer of their assets, the care of dependents, and the fulfillment of their wishes upon passing.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of creating a comprehensive plan for how a person’s assets, property, and financial affairs will be managed, preserved, and distributed during their lifetime and after death.

Key Elements

  • Wills. A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed upon their death. It can also specify guardians for minor children and provide other important instructions. To be valid in Florida, a will must meet certain legal requirements that are often more onerous than in other states.
  • Trusts. Trusts are legal entities that allow a person (the grantor) to transfer assets to the management of one or more trustees for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Trusts, which can be irrevocable or revocable prior to death, can be used to manage assets, reduce estate taxes (if applicable), and provide for other specific needs.
  • Power of Attorney. A power of attorney authorizes another person (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to make certain financial and legal decisions on behalf of the individual, especially in the event of incapacity.
  • Healthcare Directive. Also known as a living will, an advance healthcare directive specifies an individual’s medical treatment preferences if they become unable to make such decisions themselves.
  • Beneficiary Designations. Many assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts, allow individuals to designate beneficiaries. These designations are often self-executing and take precedence over instructions in a will or trust.

Goals

  • Ensure the orderly and designated distribution of assets in accordance with the wishes of the decedent.
  • Lawfully minimize estate taxes and probate costs.
  • Provide for the financial security of loved ones.
  • Appoint guardians for minor children.
  • Express preferences for medical care and end-of-life decisions.

Probate

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are inventoried, debts are paid, and remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of their will or, if there is no will, applicable intestate law.

Key Elements

  • Executor or Administrator. The court appoints an executor (if validly named in the will) or an administrator (if there is no will or lawful executor named) to manage the estate during probate.
  • Asset Inventory. All of the deceased person’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, personal property, and investments, are documented and valued, as appropriate.
  • Creditor Notification. Creditors are given an opportunity to make claims against the estate to settle certain outstanding debts.
  • Distribution of Assets. After paying debts, taxes, administrative and other expenses, the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs as specified in the will or according to applicable intestate law.

Goals

  • Legally transfer assets to beneficiaries.
  • Ensure that the deceased person’s debts are paid.
  • Provide a forum for resolving disputes among heirs or beneficiaries.

The need for probate can vary depending on the value and complexity of the estate, the presence of a valid will, and applicable probate laws. Estate planning, including the proper use of trusts and beneficiary designations, can help reduce costs and streamline the probate process—or, in some cases, avoid it entirely.

Both estate planning and probate are essential components of managing one’s affairs and ensuring that you or your loved one’s wishes are carried out efficiently and legally after death. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help navigate these processes and create a plan that suits your unique needs and goals.

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