What Estate Plan Items to Consider When Preparing Yourself and Your Family for the Future

As we move through summer most people are thinking about vacations, enjoying the great outdoors, and finding fun ways to stay cool, especially here in Miami and South Florida. One thing that many people aren’t thinking about, even though they should, is their estate plan. Surely, planning who will inherit your assets after you are gone, is not as fun as booking a vacation across the world. However, as we move past the halfway point of the year, it is a great time to go through a quick Florida estate planning checklist to ensure everything is still on track. A few items on your checklist will include: determining your beneficiary designations, reviewing your last will and testament, considering living trusts, and considering a power of attorney. With a solid legal estate plan in place you control how your assets are shared amongst your loved ones. Thinking about the following items can make sure your estate plan isn’t going to have any issues nor require an attorney afterwards to deal with disputes. 

Update Your HIPAA Authorizations

A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release should be part of your estate plan. There’s a great explanation of the HIPAA laws in Florida in the Florida Department of Health. It is this power that enables your agent to obtain all necessary documentation about your health, if necessary, from your healthcare providers so that your affairs can be managed accordingly. You may want to have your HIPAA release drafted by an attorney licensed to practice law, to ensure that the drafter understands the intricacies required to draft a valid HIPAA release. If you’ve had any changes to who you want to be able to access your health records, it is important to make a HIPAA update right away. The HIPAA laws govern who can access health information, and how. If you don’t keep your list of authorized viewers updated, it could leave you in a difficult situation should you become ill over the summer. Another reason why it is important to retain an experienced estate planning attorney is to ensure that your HIPAA release is always up to date. Florida has added additional protections to the less restrictive federal laws regarding HIPAA. Thus, a HIPAA release more than 24 months old is not valid in the state of Florida. Therefore, it is also essential to retain counsel and ensure these documents are up to date and re-executed.

How is Your Life Insurance?

Life insurance has many uses in your estate plan; these include paying expenses, death taxes, and replacing income. It is an is an important part of many people’s estate plans and there are many types of policies to consider depending on your needs including whole life policies and term life policies. You can see a comparison of these here. The prices for life insurance can vary greatly over the course of the year, so it is important to review your policy at least a couple times each year and consider making changes. If the prices are low, consider switching coverage or adding an additional policy if appropriate.

Check Those Taxes

Estate taxes can be expensive, and must be paid within 9 months after death. Oftentimes, assets must be liquidated to satisfy these payments, however, planning beforehand may reduce or eliminate these estate taxes. Any tax changes that were put in place in the previous year will have gone into effect early in 2018. By now, all the tax experts and financial planners will have had plenty of time to really read through the new laws, so they can provide good advice on how it will impact your estate. Making any changes necessary due to these law adjustments is a great idea.

Storing Estate Planning Documents

All your legal documents need to be kept in a safe location. Many people keep them at home because it is convenient, but it isn’t always safe. If your home should get destroyed in a fire or hurricane, many of these documents would be difficult to recover quickly. A good idea would be to ask your estate planning attorney if she retains your signed originals and for how long she may do so. Another great way to prevent your legal documents from being inaccessible for whatever reason is to provide copies for safekeeping to a trusted loved one; your trustee or executor will be a preferred choice. Having your legal documents updated and placed in a safe location is a great idea. Summer is the perfect time to do this too because you don’t want these types of documents left home while you go on vacation. Places to consider are a safe deposit box (but only if someone left behind can access it) or a friend’s home for safekeeping 

Are Your Trusts Funded?

Funding your trust is the process of transferring your assets from you to your trust. To accomplish this, you must physically change the title of your assets from your name to the name of your trust. For example, transferring any real property to a trust usually requires a quitclaim deed to transfer this property into trust. And any personal property with a title document, such as any kind of vehicle (cars, motorcycles, boats and airplanes) will need new titles for the living trust as the owner. Take a look at any trusts you have in place and make sure they are properly funded. It can be easy to establish a trust and then forget to contribute money or other assets to it over time. Check to ensure all your financial vehicles like this are getting the attention they need during this mid-year checkup. 

Customize Your Estate Planning Checklist

Every estate plan is unique and needs to be handled properly to ensure it is well taken care of. Each state has different requirements and Florida has its own specific rules. Contact Vasquez de Lara Law Group in Miami to discuss your estate situation and create a custom checklist to ensure everything is properly taken care of.

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