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Fort Myers Probate & Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate plans for same-sex couples require special attention

If you are a part of a same-sex relationship, there are a number of ways your estate plan may be a bit more complex than those of heterosexual couples. Unfortunately, there are a number of laws that still lag behind the changing tide of public opinion, and setting aside the unfairness of the situation, if you want to ensure that your estate plan serves your interests and provides for your partner, there are several key considerations to attend to. One of the most prevalent issues is marriages to previous partners that you might assume were invalid outside of the state where you registered.

When same-sex marriage became the law of the land, there were already number of states that recognized same-sex marriage and had been issuing marriage licenses for a number of years. If you were previously married under a marriage license before the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, your previous marriage license was not automatically dissolved. You should make sure that any previous marriages are officially dissolved before you set up an estate plan that seeks to transfer assets to your current partner or spouse.

Does your estate plan address disability?

Creating a comprehensive, well-balanced estate plan is no simple matter. In the middle of ensuring that your wishes are made clear and your loved ones are provided for, don't forget to take care of yourself first and foremost.

Many individuals may get so wrapped up in providing for the ones they love, they often forget to make their own care a central part of their plan. Of course, failing to care for yourself only shifts this burden to the ones you love, so it is always best to make sure that you take appropriate steps to ensure you have what you need later in life or in case of disability.

Be careful when putting conditions on receiving gifts in a will

When you create a will, you are making a legally binding document that declares your end of life wishes and your preferences for how your property should be divided when you pass away. Beyond directing your family and loved ones about how to properly approach the end of your life, you also set forth who receives which pieces of your property. For many reasons, you may choose to place conditions on how or when a beneficiary receives a piece of property from your estate.

While it is perfectly permissible to place conditions on who can receive an asset and under what circumstances they might do so, it is important to understand the limitations on what a will can control.

A trust to match the special needs of your family

It is important to protect your loved ones and ensure that they have everything they need well into the future, even if you are not around to see it happen. One of the ways that Florida families can do this is with the establishment of a trust, especially those that have special needs family members.

A special needs trust is a way that you can provide for a family member who may not be able to care for themselves. This action will set money aside, protecting it and saving for a time in which the beneficiary may need additional care and financial support. A special needs trust can ensure that your loved one gets the support he or she needs and deserves. 

Does Florida recognize trusts created in another state?

Florida famously hosts many retirees as they enter their golden years and move South to retire in style. However, many retiring or relocating individuals may worry that moving to Florida from some other state may adversely affect their existing estate plans in some way, specifically trusts created in another state. After all, trusts are state-specific documents.

While this is a reasonable concern, carrying a trust from one state to another poses very few potential challenges. In general, Florida recognizes the validity of a trust created in any other state just as it recognizes one specifically created in Florida.

Defuse beneficiary conflicts with a well-crafted will

The greater your assets, the more opportunity there is that your beneficiaries may find reasons to fight among each other after you pass away. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of inheritance disputes.

Most people assume that every person of means has a will or some other kind of estate plan. However, this is simply not true. You might be shocked to learn that many, many individuals with significant assets have no end-of-life plan at all. If you die without a will, you leave your beneficiaries in a terrible position. Not only must they wait on the probate process, they may argue indefinitely about how the government chooses to divide your property (after possibly taking a great deal of it).

You must fund a trust properly to enjoy its benefits

If you have significant assets and wish to protect them from the probate process, then you have probably considered using some form of trust to accomplish this goal. As any estate planning attorney can tell you, employing a trust has many attractive benefits, but those benefits may never be realized if you do not do your part as the creator of the trust to fund it properly.

Funding a trust is the process of legally placing assets in the ownership of the trustee of the trust. If you create a trust and fail to do this, you may actually end up incurring unnecessary costs without enjoying the benefits of the trust you created.

Does my executor need legal assistance?

Deciding who is best suited to act as the executor of your estate is a big decision, one which neither you nor the person you appoint should take lightly. In many cases, the details of an estate plan are either complicated or may entail a certain degree of conflict, in which case it is usually wise to aid your executor with some proper help.

While most wills and estate plans are executable by a layperson with no special legal training, some plans require special legal guidance. This especially true when executing your wishes may cause significant conflict among your beneficiaries.

Do you need to amend your will?

Florida is known as a place where thousands of individuals from all across the country choose to live later in life, often in their retirement. For many of those who move to Florida in their golden years, their wills were created long ago, and they assume that this is good enough. After all, many American's don't even have a will, right? While it is true that having some will is better than no will, there are many instances where it is wise to update your will to ensure that your loved ones remain protected and your wishes are made clear.

If you have gained or lost any beneficiaries since creating your will, you should consider amending it to reflect this change. You may have seen your family grow in recent years, possibly with the addition of grandchildren. Contrastingly, you may have lost family members, either through death or divorce, and need to amend your will so that it addresses only those beneficiaries who are still with you.

Are you responsible for a deceased loved one's debts?

As you work to settle the affairs of a recently deceased loved one's estate, you undoubtedly have many tasks ahead of you. You may feel uncertain about how to handle some of those duties, especially when it comes to financial aspects of the estate. Because you want to carry out your family member's final wishes to the best of your ability, you may need to gain more information on how to handle specific responsibilities.

One issue that may prove particularly confusing to address involves debt the deceased may have had at the time of his or her death. Luckily, this seemingly complicated issue may have relatively simple solutions.