Estate Planning

With such a large retirement population, the “Sunshine State” has become one of the most ideal places a person can enjoy the remainder of their lives. This is because Florida doesn’t only offer warmer temperatures, but it’s one of the most tax friendly states in the nation. Utilizing the tools provided by the state, you can rest assured your property and assets are protected, taxes minimized, and secure a comfortable future for you and your family.

All of this is possible with the proper estate planning. A detailed estate plan will ensure all your property/assets will be passed on to your loved ones if you pass away. It will also provide your family or loved ones with answers to the difficult healthcare/financial decisions that must be made in the event you become incapacitated.

Although estate planning covers difficult topics, it’s important you do everything in your power to ensure all your affairs are in order. Having a sound and comprehensive estate plan will guarantee your wealth is protected and passed on to your loved ones with the least cost.

Florida Estate Planning Lawyer | Brooksville, Hernando County

It’s easy to put off estate planning as it doesn’t impact you today, but it’s incredibly crucial you have a comprehensive estate plan for the future. Unfortunately, we are never promised tomorrow. That is why it’s important you make the right decisions today for your estate’s future. If you are interested in establishing an estate plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experienced legal team at The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A..

Ashley Aulls of The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. has over 15 years of experience and can utilize his knowledge for your case. He comes from a long line of successful legal professionals and his father, Morton D. Aulls, is currently on staff as of counsel. He has been an attorney for 50 years and has helped many families and individuals establish a thorough and effective estate plan. They can do the same for you. To set up your first consultation, call The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. at (352) 593-4115 today.

The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. is located in Brooksville, but accepts clients in other nearby communities including Weeki Wachee, Homosassa Springs, and Spring Hill.

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What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is essentially forming a plan for the future in the event you are deceased, or you become too incapacitated to make important financial/healthcare decisions. Technically, every individual has an estate that consists of everything they own like your car, savings, or your home. An estate plan simply ensures your property, money, and assets are given to the people and/or organizations you care about. Another benefit of having an effective estate plan is your loved ones will not pay as much in taxes, legal fees, and court costs after your death.

In essence, estate planning is just creating a plan for your assets, money, property after you die, and outlines the steps needed to execute the estate plan. However, an excellent and thorough estate plan is much more than just sorting out your assets and liabilities. It also should do the following:

  • Minimize court costs, taxes, and unnecessary legal fees. This may include completing or updating beneficiary designations, funding assets into a living trust, and doing whatever needed to align your assets with your estate plan
  • Provide loved ones with protection from creditors in the event of divorce or provide protection to individuals who may not be resourceful with their money
  • Name an individual as a guardian if you have minor children for their care and/or inheritance
  • Provide protection for family members with special needs while ensuring they’re not disqualified from governmental benefits
  • Make arrangements for disability income insurance in the event you cannot work due to an illness or injury. Include arrangements for long-term care insurance to ensure your treatment is paid for in case you are suffering with an extended illness or injury. Lastly, make arrangements for life insurance for your family in case you unexpectedly pass away.
  • Establish steps for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, death or incapacity.
  • Include instructions for your health care and financial affairs if you become incapacitated

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Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

Life is unexpected and the sudden death or incapacity of a family member or loved one can happen, unfortunately, at any time. When these “life events” happen, normally the individual’s family members and loved ones are suffering with grief. The family unit may be destabilized due to the event, but during this difficult time important decisions must be made. Family members and loved ones will need access to the deceased’s records in order to settle all their affairs and estate issues.

What many people don’t understand is that just because you’re family doesn’t mean you have legal authority to act for one another or receive inherited assets. Instead, Florida law assumes each individual only has legal authority over themselves. If they don’t have a plan established for their assets, the estate must go through a process called probate.

Having a last will and testament will give the court some guidance on what to do with your estate. If you have a will established, the court won’t have to fall back on state probate statutes and your family won’t be required to pay expensive probate fees. The will can also appoint a family member or loved one to make important decisions and avoid family disputes.

Although it’s important to have a last will and testament, the document is limited to how assets are distributed after you’re deceased. You will need two other estate planning documents filed at a minimum to have a comprehensive estate plan.

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What Does an Estate Plan Include?

What documents are required for your estate plan will depend on various factors including the number of assets or properties you may own. However, for any size estate, there are three documents you must file in order to have a comprehensive estate plan.

  1. Last Will & Testament – A last will is known as a “testamentary document,” meaning it provides instructions on how to distribute an individual’s assets if they are deceased. You must follow Florida’s “formalities” if you wish to file a valid will with the state. These formalities include having all witnesses and a notary in the same room, and the testator must observe the witnesses sign the will in the same space.
  2. Advanced Healthcare Directive – A healthcare directive, also known as a medical or advance directive, is usually filed with an individual’s will and the designation of a healthcare surrogate. The directive is an oral or written statement that expresses your wish for medical treatment in the event you’re incapacitated.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney – Unfortunately, if you become disabled you will still be obligated to fulfill your financial concerns. Bills will still need to be paid and if you own a business, you’ll need to find a way to continue operations without your input. These and other matters will need to be handled as efficiently as possible. Bestowing someone with power of attorney will allow them to conduct business on your behalf. However, you must ensure they’re granted durable power of attorney. The “durability” part of the document ensures the individual retains the power of attorney despite the fact you’re disabled. That is because all powers of attorney will become ineffective if you’re disabled unless you have durable power of attorney.

Other important documents that may make up your estate plan include:

  • Guardianship – If you have minor dependent children, this document will ensure your children are cared for by someone you appointed in the event of your death or incapacitation.
  • Trust – A trust allows a first party (known as the Settlor, Trustor, or Grantor) to give a second party (the Trustee) rights to hold property/assets/money on behalf and usually for the benefit of a third party (known as the Beneficiary).
  • Financial Power of Attorney — This document grants someone the right to handle all your financial affairs.
  • HIPPA Authorization – Allows your medical records/information to be shared with a third party

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How Does Probate Work in Florida?

Probate is a legal process where the court retitles your estate assets, so your beneficiaries receive your property, cash, and other assets. If you have a will, probate court will follow it as an “instruction guide” and distribute assets according to the will. The court will not recognize any last wills and testaments that are considered inadmissible by the court. You must meet all required formalities for wills in the state of Florida to ensure a will is admissible.

Florida offers three different types of probate depending on the circumstances of the estate. These three types include:

  • Formal Administration – This type of probate offers no shortcuts. The full petition must be filed with a formal “notice to creditors” and the entire process will include how assets must be inventoried. These type of probate cases usually take 6-12 months, but in some cases can take years to resolve.
  • Summary Administration – A case with a minimum of $75,000 in total assets tends to be much easier to resolve and costs less to file. Most summary administration probate cases are for individuals who had minimal assets.
  • Ancillary Administration – Ancillary administration is utilized when a probate is in another jurisdiction where the testator resided. For instance, an ancillary administration probate case would apply to a Florida resident with property in Ohio. In these cases, probates must be filed in both states if the testator had real property in both jurisdictions.

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Additional Resources

Florida Statutes | Estates & Trusts – Visit the official website for Online Sunshine, a collection of Florida’s current laws and regulations. Access the site to read more about estate planning including what’s required in a will, how to establish a trust, and other important information.

Do You Have a Will? – Visit the official website for the Florida Bar to read more about Last Living Testaments and Wills. Access the site to learn the full scope of what a will covers, how to prepare for one, what happens if you don’t establish a will, and other answers for your frequently asked estate planning questions.

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Hernando County Lawyer for Estate Planning | Florida Wills, Trusts, and Estates

It’s never too early to start planning for the unexpected. While it may be uncomfortable to plan for your possible death or incapacitation, it’s incredibly important you have a sound and comprehensive estate plan. That way it can save you and your family a considerable amount of time and money. It will also give your loved ones more time to grieve and less focus on handling complicated legal matters in the event of your death or incapacitation.

Let Ashley Aulls and his team take the burden off you and your family by calling our offices at (352) 593-4115. You can find our headquarters in Brooksville, but we accept clients throughout Hernando County as well as areas that include Citrus County, Sumter County, and Pasco County.

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