VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Estate planning for each stage of adulthood

Some people in Florida may think they do not need a will because they have few assets or no dependents. However, even if all a person has is a checking account, a relative may still have to go to probate court with proof the relationship in order to be appointed executor. Furthermore, people might still want to put healthcare and financial protections in place in case they become incapacitated.

Young adults without dependents might need little more than paperwork that appoints their parents to make healthcare decisions on their behalf and a will that appoints them as executors. Once a person marries, an estate plan can protect possessions that a person wants to remain in the family instead of going to the spouse. Second marriages can be complex if there are children from a previous marriage. An estate plan may be particularly important to ensure that children from both relationships are made beneficiaries. If the children are minors, a parent can use the will to appoint a guardian for them.

As people get older, they may have more assets and might want to consider a living trust. It is important that people think of an estate plan as a document they revise throughout their lives at different stages and in different situations.

For example, one commonly overlooked part of estate planning is the beneficiary designation. This is the form that is filled out to name a beneficiary for assets such as life insurance and retirement accounts. This overrides a will or trust, and if a person forgets to add children or remove an ex-spouse, the estate may not be distributed according to that person's actual wishes. Over time, a person might also change who will be the executor or trustee or the person chosen to make medical or financial decisions.

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