de Jesus Law Group in DeLand and New Smyrna Beach, Florida helps you dream up your future, plan carefully, and create the legal protections to safeguard your wishes for your loved ones.

An estate plan often gets mistaken for things like life insurance, a will, or even an employer benefit provided for one’s family. However, it’s much more comprehensive than any single one of those elements. Essentially, an estate plan encompasses considerations for various scenarios that might occur during one’s life or after death. It addresses questions like what should happen in the event of your disability or incapacitation, or upon your passing.

For instance, it considers the care for your children at home—how you want them looked after and by whom. It also looks at your assets and how you can ensure they are protected and that your wishes regarding them are respected and followed. This applies not just while you are alive but also after you have passed away.

In summary, an estate plan is exactly that—a meticulously thought-out plan that outlines your wishes and how you want them executed in different eventualities.

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Now that you have an estate plan, you might be wondering what comes next, particularly regarding when to update your plan. It’s crucial to review and potentially update your plan every three years. This recommendation is based on the understanding that a lot can change within that timeframe—be it within your family dynamics or even the tax laws.

These changes could significantly impact the effectiveness of your estate plan. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your plan functions as intended when it’s needed the most, adapting seamlessly to your evolving circumstances.

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The answer to this question varies, as it depends on individual desires for what should happen upon incapacitation or death. Contrary to popular belief, owning substantial wealth is not a prerequisite for setting up a trust.

The decision to establish a trust is more about the wish to bypass probate, maintain privacy, and ensure arrangements are in place for any incapacitation or eventual death. This underscores the importance of an initial meeting to thoroughly understand, get educated, and become empowered to make informed decisions.

Our approach focuses on providing education and empowering you, enabling you to decide what’s best for your situation. There’s no universally correct answer, highlighting the tailored nature of estate planning to meet personal needs and circumstances.

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First, for those with minor children, it’s crucial to consider who would care for them long-term in your absence. Equally important is arranging for short-term guardians, ideally someone nearby who can reach your children quickly if something happens to you. This is essential to ensure that your children are not left in the care of strangers during such a traumatic time. The process includes selecting both short-term and long-term guardians.

Next, the discussion turns to finances. It’s important to ensure that the long-term guardians have the necessary financial resources to care for your children. This involves exploring the different levels of life insurance and ensuring guardians have access to the assets they need.

Lastly, the plan should detail the logistics for the guardian to take care of your children, considering that short-term and long-term guardians may differ.

This comprehensive approach requires a thoughtful conversation and planning session to tailor a plan that suits your family’s unique needs.

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The power of attorney primarily focuses on financial matters, allowing the designated person to manage financial tasks such as paying mortgages, banking, and communicating with financial institutions on your behalf. On the other hand, an advanced healthcare directive, which includes a medical power of attorney and a living will, pertains to medical decisions. This directive ensures that if you’re unable to make healthcare decisions yourself, the person you’ve appointed can step in.

It’s critical to note that as long as you’re capable of expressing yes or no, through blinking or other simple gestures, you retain control over these decisions. However, if you become unable to communicate, your chosen representative will make decisions based on your pre-expressed wishes.

The living will portion of the directive specifically addresses whether you wish to receive life-sustaining treatments if you’re unable to make that decision yourself. It emphasizes the importance of selecting someone who thoroughly understands your healthcare preferences to ensure your wishes are followed when you’re unable to articulate them.

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A revocable living trust is a flexible tool designed to help families avoid court and conflict, both during the trust creator’s life and after their passing. Its primary advantage is that it allows for the bypassing of probate costs, making it an effective means to manage and distribute assets smoothly.

On the other hand, an irrevocable trust serves a different purpose, focusing on asset protection. It is structured to safeguard assets from various risks, such as creditors, ex-spouses, and lawsuits, ensuring that your wealth is preserved for your intended beneficiaries. Irrevocable trusts are used in various planning strategies, each tailored to meet specific goals regarding asset protection.

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The job of a Florida probate attorney is to guide the personal representative (also sometimes described as the executor or administrator) through administration of the estate, helping ensure that all technical requirements are met and that the personal representative understands and has the information necessary to carry out his or her responsibilities.

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The cost to hire a Florida probate attorney depends on the type of administration, the size of the estate, and whether there are any out-of-the-ordinary issues to be addressed in the probate process.

Florida law allows for the payment of “reasonable compensation,” and sets forth a table of fees that will be presumed to be reasonable. These start at a $1,500 flat fee for estates valued at $40,000 or less and shift to a percentage-based formula for estates valued at more than $100,000.

However, the attorney and personal representative may agree to a different method of determining fees, so long as the method is reasonable and no interested party objects. And, services that fall outside the normal administration of an estate may result in additional fees. Our team will be able to provide more specific information about the likely fees associated with an estate matter like yours.

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How long probate takes varies depending on the type of administration and the complexity of the estate. The probate process always takes more than three months, because creditors are allowed 90 days to submit claims. A summary administration—that is, a small estate that is administered informally—may often be completed in four to six months. However, formal administration typically takes several months, and often more than a year. In a particularly complex administration or where issues such as will contests and contests over valuation of property arise, the matter can stretch out for two years or more.

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In most Florida probate cases, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require that the personal representative be represented by an attorney. This requirement is to the advantage of both the personal representative and the beneficiaries, since the probate process can be daunting and confusing. There are some limited exceptions, such as for estates in which the personal representative is the sole beneficiary. However, it is generally in the personal representative’s best interest to hire a probate attorney even when one is not required, as small mistakes can create serious complications.

Beneficiaries typically do not need their own probate attorneys, but may choose to hire one if conflicts arise or they have reason to believe that the personal representative is acting dishonestly or is not fulfilling his or her responsibilities.

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In most cases, no. If your loved one’s assets are owned in the name of a Trust, the family can contact a lawyer who will complete some paperwork and guide the loved ones through the process with ease without the need for court involvement.

Unfortunately, many people who have a Trust think they have it all taken care of. But time and again, family members’ of a recently passed loved one come into my office and they find out they are facing the frustration, expense and delay of a probate, even though the person they loved had a trust.

Why is that?

Often the Trust was prepared many years ago and was never updated; and often, their loved ones’ assets were not owned in the name of their Trust. That is why it is so very important that you carefully choose your estate planning attorney and have regular reviews of your plan and assets so the planning you do now works as planned later.

It’s why we do things so much differently than most other lawyers and law firms, here at de Jesus Law Group.

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Yes. In fact, costs of administering the estate are the number one priority under Florida law, meaning that they are paid before any other debts or obligations of the estate, and before any assets are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.

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Generally, the probate process is required to legally transfer property of the estate to beneficiaries. Under certain limited circumstances, though, Florida law allows for “disposition without administration.” This type of disposition is available only when the estate consists solely of personal property that falls within specific limits and the property is being released to the person who paid funeral expenses and medical expenses in the 60 days preceding the death.

Probate may also be avoided when the deceased made other provisions for all property to be transferred, such as placing everything he or she owned into a living trust so that there is no property belonging to the estate.

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Florida law sets forth the order of priority for payment of estate obligations and distribution of assets, and there are quite a few expenses and other obligations to be paid before heirs and beneficiaries. Top priority goes to costs of administration and compensation to the personal representative and his or her attorney—in other words, the actual costs of getting the estate settled.

Funeral and burial expenses come next, followed by debts of the estate, which are broken out into several levels of priority.

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Assets owned solely in the name of the deceased person are subject to probate. Assets that pass by means of title, such as real estate titled as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship,” or bank accounts titled as “Transfer On Death” are not subject to the probate process. Assets that pass by means of a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance or some retirement accounts, are also not subject to probate. In some situations, however, assets that would otherwise pass by title or beneficiary designation can be subject to the probate process. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

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Harmony or Chaos?

What will your legacy be?

The choice is yours.

We understand that shaping your family’s future is important to you.

Let us join you on this journey.

From crafting a detailed estate plan, securing resources for long-term care, or making a plan for your minor children, our compassionate Central Florida team is dedicated to standing by your side.

Embrace peace of mind. Reach out to us today.

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