The start of a new year is an ideal time to either begin or redraft your estate planning documents. But what exactly do you do or need to start this process?
Getting Started with a Florida Estate Planning Checklist
After having located an attorney who best suites your needs, the next steps would be to ensure you have the relevant information to share with that attorney allowing them to advise you and draft your documents.
While many attorneys utilize a questionnaire to gather pertinent information from you, the following is a list of the most common items requested. Following this list will allow you to be prepared for your initial consultation with your attorney and ensure a speedy and seamless estate plan drafting process.
1. General personal information about you and your family, including:
- Names, including any aliases or former names, of you and your family members,
- Physical addresses, email address and telephone numbers,
- Date you moved to Florida,
- Address of any secondary residences,
- Your occupation and that of your spouse (if applicable),
- Social Security number for your and your spouse (if applicable),
- Date of birth for you and your family members,
- Citizenship of you and your family members,
- Confirmation related to the end of any previous marriages so that your attorney can confirm any financial obligations to prior spouses and/or children, etc. and advise you accordingly,
- Names and birth dates of all living biological and legally adopted children, their issue and their spouses (of both your and of your spouse, if applicable),
- Names, birth dates and date of death of all deceased biological and legally adopted children, their issue and their spouses (of both your and of your spouse, if applicable),
- If you live in Florida only part of the year, then be sure to provide a general timing of when you’re in the state so your attorney can determine your state of residence,
- The physical and mental health and wellbeing of you, your spouse and your children or other beneficiary/fiduciary of your estate. If anyone has a mental issue such as dementia, then the names and contact information for their doctors will be required.
2. Financial Institutions
- Be sure to have all account information for each bank account you and your spouse own,
- Also, be sure to have information related to any safety deposit box possessed by you or your spouse.
3. All assets that you and your spouse hold ownership interest, including:
- All real estate property whether within the state or not,
- Notable personal property belonging to you and your spouse, such as collectibles and family heirlooms,
- A list of all stocks and bonds held by you and your spouse,
- Promissory notes receivable, and any security thereon, held by you and your spouse,
- All bank accounts, cash, and accounts receivable owned by you and your spouse,
- Any trust assets held in a trust already established by you or your spouse,
- All business interests held by you or your spouse,
- Insurance policies such as life, accidental death, long term care, and disability,
- Employee benefits held by you or your spouse,
- Retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), 457, IRA, pension) of both you and your spouse,
- Information for any annuities owned by you or your spouse.
4. When providing information related to both real and personal assets to your attorney, it is important to know the form of ownership of each item. Forms of ownership may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Individual Ownership – this form of ownership denotes items or real property owned directly in your name and/or your spouse’s name.
- Tenancy in Common – this form of ownership involves co-owning property with another individual or entity.
- Tenancy with Right of Survivorship, and relationship with other joint tenants, such as (i) express or implied joint tenancy, (ii) tenancy by entirety with your spouse, (iii)joint accounts, or (iv) trust deposit accounts.
- To learn more about Tenancy in common and Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship, explore our prior article related to Common ways for Individuals to Hold Title in Florida Real Estate.
- You or your spouse being a beneficiary of a trust.
- You or your spouse having power of appointment.
- You or your spouse having beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, employee benefit plans, IRAs, or similar assets.
5. You should also have available the approximate value of, and/or the amount of any encumbrances on, each of your properties.
6. A list of all other debts that may not necessarily encumber a specific asset should also be provided to your attorney. This may include credit cards, etc.
7. While preparing your estate plan, your attorney may need to contact other professionals with whom you work. Having handy and providing the names and contact information for your accountant, financial advisor(s), business adviser(s), insurance broker(s), etc. will be very useful during the drafting process.
8. Knowing the value of any taxable gifts made by you would also be very helpful for your attorney. This information may be provided by your accountant.
9. While you may ultimately wish to pass on certain assets after you die, you may still need them during your lifetime. Therefore, knowing your plans for the use and disposition of the assets in your estate is imperative. You should be able to provide to your attorney your general plans and needs, as well as any planned major expenses or asset acquisitions.
10. While knowing about your list of assets is very important, having an idea of your intended beneficiaries, alternative beneficiaries in the event they predecease you, and any heirs to be specifically disinherited is also needed. While most individuals leave their assets to their spouses and/or children, some may choose to leave their assets to unrelated individuals, charitable organizations, or even pets!
11. If you wish to leave a specific asset to someone in your estate plan, then be sure to have a clear description of the asset or the specific amount to be left to the beneficiary/beneficiaries. Attorneys will also require you to provide a beneficiary for the residue (all assets not specifically named or bequeathed) of your estate.
12. Also have a source of payment for any expenses or taxes due at the time of your passing.
13. In addition to your beneficiaries, you must provide names of your intended fiduciaries. While most married couples name each other as their initial fiduciaries, alternatives should be considered in the event your spouse predeceases you. Fiduciaries include personal representatives named in your Last Will and Testament, trustees named in your Inter Vivos Trust and guardians for minor children.
14. Your estate plan will include more than just your Will or Trust. Typically, your attorney will prepare a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney. As such, it is imperative that you provide the name of your intended health care surrogate to make medical decisions on your behalf in the case of incapacity and a financial fiduciary. Again, married individuals usually name each other, but alternatives should always be considered.
This list provides a cursory overview of the items you may need during the drafting of your estate plan.
However, it is always best to first speak with your attorney about your specific objectives and strategy.
Contact us to learn more about the estate planning process and how ASR Law Firm may be able to assist you get your estate plan completed in a speedy and efficient manner.
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