What is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning means planning for your “estate” by deciding who will obtain your property, pay for your debts, help with your children, and close out all of your business.  Your estate is typically anything you own in your own name, but certain items are “exempt” from being deemed “probate assets” such as your homestead.  It is incredibly important that you speak to an Estate Planning attorney that focuses at least 90% of their practice on these matters.  Estate Planning attorneys take legal seminars and training to become educated on these complicated matters.  Someone that writes Wills here and there may be suitable for your needs, but it is taking a risk for an important matter.  Even general practitioner doctors refer you out to specialist doctors for more particular issues.  Get a “specialist” on your side by hiring an Estate Planning attorney.  For help with popular Estate Planning terms. 

All individuals can benefit from some type of estate planning regardless if they are very wealthy or have modest incomes, married or single, and whether or not they have children. Estate planning can be simple or complex, depending on the nature of the estate, the personal and family background, and the objectives. Importantly, estate planning dramatically helps your loved ones in the event of your loss, and while they are dealing with your loss. It is making decisions on your own behalf, instead of asking a court to decide for you, or asking your family (who have many differing opinions) to decide where your assets go and who takes custody of your children. 

You can plan and still think positively about your future. Many people procrastinate when it comes to planning as it is depressing or they feel invincible. However, once the documents are prepared, you should have a sense of peace.  I assist you with “peace of mind” planning.

peace of mind planning estate planning

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is a document that sets forth how you want your property distributed at your death.  You appoint a Personal Representative and the document is entered pursuant to very specific formalities set forth under Florida law.  Although you can find these cheaply made under do-it-yourself websites, remember that it is called Estate Planning for a reason.  Lawyers study for years to be able to craft plans that will be helpful financially and emotionally for your families.  This is one area where you do not want to cut corners.  We also handle Probate cases and saving a buck can cost your estate and your loved ones so much more fixing the mistakes of “one size fits all” Wills. 

Please note: Do not confuse a Last Will and Testament with a Living Will.  We often hear our new clients use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different.  

Estate Planning at Every Stage

What type of legal documents you require often depends on your stage of life.   First, do you need a simple or complex will?  To see if you may qualify for a simple vs. a complex Will, look at the following chart.  Keep in mind that every family is unique.  We encourage you to set up a free consultation.

complex wills with trusts

The next step is to determine your personal circumstances such as married/divorced/single, or amount of assets and obligations, etc.  At Law Office of Lori Vella, you receive a customized plan for your life.  You do not receive “standard documents” because your family is by no means a “standard family.”  You have unique circumstances and your plan is customized for you.

There are different types of Wills and benefits different kinds of individuals and families depending upon their needs, desires, family arrangements, and financial resources.  Issues such as children under 25, second marriages, blended families, relatives that do not get along, or high-wealth situations can lead to complexities that oftentimes become predominantly worse with a simple Will.  As Estate Planners, we often use other documents such as Prenuptial Agreements, Postnuptial Agreements and Elective Share Waiver.  An in-depth analysis of your needs begins during our first phone call.


Young People

Younger people usually have smaller estates, with the largest being a retirement account.

Choices involve whether the surviving spouse should get entire estate which may be a windfall due to life insurance, or a “lifetime” interest in income and property.  

If there are no kids, you may consider gifting to you parents if they paid for your college or leaving to a charity.

For parents, choosing a guardian is usually the hardest part of the equation as you are asking another to take on a long-term role.  Also, a trust is usually the best method of leaving assets to your kids.

As the young family accumulates wealth, the plan changes.

Sandwich Generation

Caring for aging parents and young family at the same time (i.e., “sandwiched” in between).

May decide to restrict access to funds to surviving spouse, if there is a chance he/she will remarry.  If the survivor has full access to the funds, they may get “diluted” to benefit a new spouse or new children.

Not always wise to leave assets to parents as they may be heading towards nursing homes and the money would immediately go there.

You may change the distributions for your children if, say, your 25-year-old has already proven himself/herself financially responsible.

There may be a divorce or remarriage, blended families and new children.

"Mature" Folks

Attempting to reduce “wealth” and give gifts to reduce amount of estate.

Over 55 is a good age to start thinking about a Revocable Trust for a seamless transition of assets and to avoid a guardianship.  

Restrict access of funds to surviving spouse if he/she will be susceptible to pressure from the children.

Consider benefitting grandchildren or charities if your own children are already set.

Disclaimer:  The Law Office of Lori Vella’s website contains general information directed to Florida residents.  This firm does not intend to give legal advice through its pages and/or blog.  If you need legal advice, we encourage you to find an attorney licensed in your state.  This language on this website website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and this firm. Review our legal disclaimer page.