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Estate Planning Essentials

You may assume that Estate Planning is only for the elderly or the wealthy. However, the truth is that Estate Planning is for everyone, but many Americans overlook this during their lifetimes. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, 64% of Americans have not yet made a will, and of these, 55% have simply “not gotten around to it yet.” These individuals are neglecting one of the most important and essential processes of personal financial management.


What is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning refers to the management of your or your loved one’s estate during life and after death. It involves the transfer of assets and property after you or a loved one passes away, and ensures that your wishes are met upon your death. Without properly planning your estate, after your death, your valuables will be disbursed according to Florida law rather than your personal wishes.

Estate Planning requires numerous documents and paperwork, including Wills, Advanced Directives, and Trusts. These are considered three essential documents of Estate Planning and will be explained below.

Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts, Advanced Directives

Three Essential Estate Planning Documents

1. Wills

A Will is a legal statement expressing your wishes as to who will inherit your property upon your death. It also nominate an executor or personal representative of your estate, whose responsibility is to pay your debts from your assets and carry out your wishes. Without a Will, you have no say over who your personal representative.

A common misconception is that if you already have a will, you have planned your estate. While a will is an important component of Estate Planning, it is not the only document needed; wills apply strictly to probate property, which excludes property such as that in trusts, 401K plans, jointly-owned property, and life insurance plans. Read on to learn about other essential documents.

2. Advanced Directives

Advanced Directives, or Life Planning Documents, are crucial when planning your estate. These are a series of documents, including, but not limited to, Power of Attorney, Living Will, Health Care Surrogate, and Declaration of Pre-need Guardian. Advanced Directives are intended to protect you and your assets throughout your lifetime.

For more information about Advanced Directives, please read “Why Do We Need Advanced Directives?”

3. Trusts

Trusts are legal agreements between a grantor and a trustee. The trustee is the individual or institution (bank, law firm, etc.) who holds and manages property or assets for another person (the beneficiary). The grantor is the trustmaker, the person who creates the trust agreement.

There are many reasons for creating a trust. Most often, trusts are established as part of Estate Planning to avoid probate. Probate is the court regulated process of appraising a decedent’s assets, paying his or her bills, and distributing the remaining property and assets to family members.

Revocable trusts can be established during your lifetime, and if they terminate upon your death, all property in the trust will be dispersed to the beneficiaries. This process helps your loved ones avoid the emotional turmoil and financial burdens associated with probate.


If you have any questions regarding Estate Planning, please call O’Brien & Bennett at 941-316-9200 to speak to us today.


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