Florida residents who are creating an estate plan should consider how they would like their assets to be distributed if one or more of their beneficiaries dies at the same time or shortly after they do. Failing to plan for this could result in assets being tied up in probate for a long time or being distributed in a way that the individual would never have intended.
A simultaneous death clause may be an important part of this planning. In the event that a couple or any two people with entangled assets die at roughly the same time, this clause names one of them to be considered as the one who died first since this can be difficult to determine. Another clause, the survivorship deferral, applies if a beneficiary dies shortly after the individual who made the estate plan. Distribution of assets then proceeds as though the beneficiary died first.
There are a number of other protections people may want to consider like placing assets in a trust for special needs relatives, naming contingent beneficiaries on assets that pass via beneficiary designation, and titling some assets as "tenancy in common" instead of "joint tenancy with right of survivorship". Individuals might also want to include several layers of beneficiaries in case one or more dies.
Some of this documentation may be complex, and an attorney might be able to assist clients in estate planning based on their needs. People might also want to consider what may be done if a person appointed under a power of attorney to make medical or financial decisions if they are incapacitated dies. Communicating regularly with family members about what is in the estate plan is another way of helping to ensure that an individual's wishes are understood and carried out as intended.