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I'm not a rich Florida resident, why do I need an estate plan?

Some people assume that a thorough estate plan is just for the ultra-wealthy. Let's face it, when we hear politicians talk about the expiration of the current low estate and gift tax rates we turn down the volume. Many of us in Florida don't have a multi-million dollar estate to dole out, so why bother with an estate plan at all?

If you are one of those individuals who think that their assets aren't valuable enough to warrant an estate plan, you may want to step into the office of an experienced attorney. Those who consider themselves of average wealth can greatly benefit from a thorough estate plan. First and foremost, you can set out the terms and set aside the money necessary to fulfill your wishes after you die. Relieving the burden for surviving family members is something that most people want to do.

Not only can an estate plan make the funeral process less of a burden, but an estate plan can also provide directives in the event that you become incapacitated. A health care directive or living will combined with a power of attorney designation can set out how you want medical and financial decisions handled should you become unable to do so yourself.

In the situation where an individual is left in a state where they cannot make decisions over their own health or finances -- whether it is due to an unexpected tragedy such as a car accident or the slow onset of Alzheimer's -- a family is often left to guess at what their loved one might want or is even torn apart by disagreeing opinions. The hardest part is that the strong disagreements are often based out of love; they have strong opinions because they care.

Lastly, avoid conflict or misunderstanding. Creating an estate plan makes you think about a number of issues related to your legacy. Forcing yourself to address these issues also opens the door for explaining your intentions to your loved ones. Telling them why you decided what you did can prevent will contests or a loved one from feeling hurt based upon a misunderstanding of your intentions.

Source: abc 15, "Why estate planning is critical for your family," Sept. 11, 2012

If you have questions about creating a personalized Florida estate plan, our website provides information and access to experienced attorneys who can help.

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