St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorneys
Serving You and The State of Florida
Few of us like to contemplate our own mortality, or even consider that there may come a point where we can’t make decisions for ourselves. While there are benefits to being optimistic, there are also a lot of benefits to being pragmatic. This is particularly true when it comes to estate planning.
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that can cover everything from who can make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated to who will care for your minor children if you die to how and when your assets will be distributed upon your death. It can be used to achieve a number of goals, including protecting your hard-earned assets from excessive taxes and reducing the amount of time that it takes for your property to be transferred to your heirs.
At the Lopez Law Group, we have substantial experience in all aspects of the estate planning process. We will work with you to help you understand what your estate plan should include based on your specific situation, and then draft the necessary documents to achieve your goals. Reach out today to learn more or to schedule a consultation with a St. Petersburg probate attorney.
Who Should Have an Estate Plan?
There is a common misconception that estate planning is only for the very wealthy. In reality, almost anyone can benefit from having a comprehensive estate plan.
Estate planning isn’t just about who gets your assets after you are deceased – although a good plan will include a last will and testament. It can also be a way to minimize taxes, reduce probate expenses, and transfer property more quickly. Estate planning can also help you preserve your legacy through long-term care planning (Medicaid planning).
Beyond finances, estate planning can help you keep your children safe and provide for your loved ones after you have passed away. A proper estate plan can help make sure that your family is taken care of and that they aren’t stuck in a long legal process for years after your death.
There are many good reasons why you should have an estate plan. Perhaps the most important consideration is what might happen if you don’t have a plan in place. As an initial matter, if you die without a will, then your estate will go through intestate succession – which means that you won’t get to choose what happens to your assets or who receives them. Instead, they will be distributed according to a formula set out by the state.
Similarly, a court will appoint a personal representative or executor for your estate – who may or may not be the person that you would have chosen. If you have minor children, then the court will appoint a guardian for them. Again, this person may not be who you would have selected to care for your children in the event of your death.
Estate planning is not just about what happens when a person dies. It also includes a plan for what happens if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. If you become incapacitated without an estate plan, then a court may appoint a guardian to make financial and/or medical decisions for you. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process, and the end result might not be what you would have wanted.
Ultimately, it is vital that everyone – regardless of their personal wealth – have an estate plan to protect their interests, reduce expenses, and minimize legal hurdles. A St. Petersburg estate planning attorney can help you develop a plan that meets your needs based on your unique situation.
What Should My Estate Plan Include?
Estate planning should never take a one-size-fits-all approach. Each individual and each family may need something slightly different based on their circumstances. A skilled lawyer will listen to you and work collaboratively with you to develop a plan that fulfills your needs.
That being said, there are certain documents that every estate plan should include. At a minimum, your estate plan should have:
- A last will and testament to designate a personal representative (executor) of your estate and guardian of your minor children (if necessary) and to dispose of your probate assets.
- A durable power of attorney to appoint an attorney-in-fact to make financial decisions if you are unable to do so.
- A health care directive to designate a healthcare surrogate to make health care decisions on your behalf and to indicate your wishes regarding end-of-life care (also referred to as a living will).
- A revocable living trust to remove assets from probate administration, reduce estate tax exposure, and achieve certain distribution objections (such as distributing assets to your children over time, instead of all at once). This document may not be beneficial for everyone but is often included as part of an estate plan.
Of course, you may have additional estate planning documents based on your situation. For example, if you have a disabled child, then you may decide to establish a special needs trust to provide for your child after your passing. Alternatively, if you own a business, an estate plan can help with succession planning.
Our legal services encompass the full range of Florida estate planning services, including the foundational documents listed above as well as:
- Charitable trusts
- Family trusts
- Family limited partnerships
- Lady bird deeds (to avoid probate)
- Medicaid eligibility/long-term care planning
- Supplemental or special needs trusts
- Business succession planning
- Powers of attorney
In addition to helping you determine which documents are right for you, we will advise you on every aspect of your estate plan. This includes advising you on the selection of fiduciaries and beneficiaries, and on the best ways to achieve your goals.
When it comes to asset protection and providing for your loved ones, you don’t want to leave it up to the courts. The estate planning process may seem daunting, but it is the single best way to ensure that your wishes are followed and to maximize the amount that you can leave to your family when you die.
Talk to a St. Petersburg Estate Planning Lawyer Today
When it comes to estate planning, it is never too early to get started. Even if you’re relatively young and in good health, it is still a smart idea to consult with an estate planning attorney. A comprehensive estate plan is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets in the event you become incapacitated or pass away.
Based in St. Petersburg, the Lopez Law Group represents individuals and families in all aspects of estate planning and probate. We offer skilled legal representation that is tailored to your needs. To learn more, give our law office a call at 727-933-0015 or fill out our online contact form.
How Can I Avoid Probate?
Probate is the legal administration of your estate after your death. Probate administration can be time-consuming and expensive, which is why many Floridians seek to minimize or avoid probate when possible. One of the best ways to do this is to create a living trust, where a trustee is appointed to manage trust assets for the benefit of your chosen beneficiaries.
A living trust isn’t the best option for everyone, but it might be a good choice for you. If you’re interested in learning more about trusts and their role in the estate planning process, contact the Lopez Law Group to schedule a consultation with a St. Petersburg estate planning attorney.
Why Is It Important to Designate a Personal Representative?
When you draft a will, you will appoint someone to serve as your personal representative or executor of the state. The personal representative’s duties include accounting for and protecting all assets, paying the estate’s debts (if any), and distributing whatever remains to the decedent’s heirs. It is a position of trust and responsibility, which is why most people want to choose a personal representative who they believe will do a good job.
If you die without a will, then a court will appoint a personal representative for your estate. This often leads to difficulties that could have been avoided if you had chosen an executor in your will. The Lopez Law Group can work with you to designate fiduciaries such as the personal representative as part of the estate planning process. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.
Can I Use an Online Service for My Estate Plan?
While you can use an online template or a DIY will service for your estate plan, it may cost you more money in the long run. A template or DIY service cannot take into account the intricacies of Florida law or your specific needs. While you may get estate planning documents at the end of the process, there is a strong possibility that these documents are not legally valid or do not accomplish your goals.
Working with an estate planning lawyer can cost more money upfront, but will result in a more thorough estate plan that can actually save you money. In St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas, contact the Lopez Law Group to schedule a consultation with an estate planning and probate law firm.
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What Our Clients Say
Mr. Lopez was a Godsend and really helped me with my situation. Him and the entire firm were very diligent and helped speed the early stages of the process along due to a pressing situation. Throughout my experience working with the firm, they were always responsive and available any time I had a question or wanted to check on the state of affairs. Hopefully I won’t have to recommend Lopez Law Group to my friends or family, but if those unfortunate circumstances arise then there’s only one name I would trust. Thank you again for all your help!