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Estate Planning Updates in Florida [3 Reasons for Regular Checkups]

Just as regular medical checkups are important for physical health, regular checkups are important to diagnose the need for regular estate planning updates in Florida.

There are 3 kinds of life changes that impact your estate plan in Florida.  These 3 major areas of change make it very important to schedule a regular checkup with your Florida estate planning attorney for estate planning updates in Florida.

3 Major Reasons to Schedule Checkups for Regular Estate Planning Updates in Florida

1.  Changes in the Law Impact Your Florida Estate Plan

Our legislators at the State and Federal level are continually reviewing and often updating laws that directly impact your estate planning. For example, in recent years, the state legislature in Florida revised the Florida durable power of attorney statutes so that what is known as a “springing power of attorney” is no longer valid.  Another recent example at the federal level, is that the “portability” of the marital deduction has become permanent so that a surviving spouse may utilize the deceased spouse’s federal estate tax exemption even if this wasn’t provided for in the documents.

These legal changes can occur without your awareness and the only way to stay on top of it is a regular estate planning update in Florida.

2.  Family Changes Impact Your Florida Estate Plan

The addition of new family members will have an obvious estate planning impact and often this occurs for both parents and grandparents.

Joyful occasions such as the birth of a child and can necessitate important changes to your old Florida estate planning documents and these are part of regular estate planning updates in Florida.

New Family Members May Require Updated Estate Planning Documents 

  • Guardianship provisions concerning the care of children will need to be updated.
  • Wills and trust provisions concerning the distribution of assets will need to be updated.
  • Medical planning updates concerning issues like “cord blood” are important and may be missed.

Our previous article about how 3 critical estate documents in Florida did not address the need for changes with the introduction of new family members so we’re tackling that question as follows.

Guardianship Updates in Florida 

So provisions for Guardianship are all about who will care for children/grandchildren in the event the current primary caretakers cannot continue to do so.  In the most common case of parents, if one parent becomes unable, the other is the natural guardian.  The importance of planning occurs when both parents cannot continue to care for children and a third party must be designated as guardian.  The person or persons who are designated in most estate planning cases are often siblings of either parent or perhaps the grandparents depending upon age and ability to care for children.   The most important estate planning guideline to consider is that the most stable and trustworthy candidates are chosen for the best interest of the children and that the documents are abundantly clear concerning who the guardians are and perhaps who the successor guardians are.

A properly drafted estate plan should also address what happens if the designated guardian becomes divorced or widowed due to unexpected life changes.  For example, does the remaining individual continue to serve or does a successor sibling and spouse take over? Life changes concerning your appointees are another good reason to have regular estate update checkups as we’ve discussed in the past.

Changing Distribution of Florida Assets 

A well prepared revocable living trust in Florida or last will and testament in Florida should include come language to accommodate children or grandchildren who are born following the creation of the document.  Usually your trust or last will should say something like “children as defined by this document will include any children born hereafter…”

Although all Florida estate planning documents may say something about after-born children, they may also say the opposite; so a “best practice tip” is to specifically update your trust and will documents so they specifically mention your new family member when it comes to protecting the distribution of assets in Florida.

Changes to your Florida wills and trusts apply to the distribution of assets between children or grandchildren and also apply to any guardianship designations in the documents as discussed above.

Medical Planning Updates in Florida

Science often moves more quickly than the law and the law is often slow to adapt.  A big concern that can arise nowadays, based upon my own experience with clients, is estate planning for cord blood banking and related concerns.   This is just one example and it is very important to address questions such as where to the rights to “cord blood” and “cord tissue” pass if the primary account holders (often the parents) are disabled or become incapacitated.

For example, it is often advisable to transfer the cord blood rights to a revocable living trust so that upon disability or death, the successor trustee will have the authority to utilize this resource for benefit of whomever needs it.

The “take away” in all of this is to consider what updates are necessary when new little ones arrive on the scene in your family because they are too important to miss.

On a sadder note, the death of a spouse or another family member may also necessitate important estate planning changes.  Usually, changes are needed if one of your appointees becomes unavailable and a new appointee must be designated to serve in an important role such as successor trustee or executor in Florida.

3. Your Changing Needs Impact Your Florida Estate Plan

Aging often brings changes in one’s ability to care for themselves and these changes may necessitate important updates to your estate plan. For example, if you’ve created a revocable living trust and are serving as your own trustee, an amendment may be needed to appoint your successor, either temporarily or permanently, in the event you are unable to manage your own affairs.

Your needs may also change with age if you need to begin pre-Medicaid planning in Florida or start gifting away estate assets assets as a way to downsize your estate and plan for federal estate tax savings for the next generation.

The important thing to remember is that, like your physical health, regular checkup to diagnose the need for estate planning updates in Florida are so important to assure that nothing is being missed and all changes are being incorporated into your plan.

There is another connection to your physical health which is the peace of mind comes from knowing that you’ve taken care of your highest priorities. For most people, peace of mind lowers stress while fostering a sense of love and fulfillment. These attributes are all a part of a healthy life strategy.

So the “take away” today is to take the necessary step to get your regular check up, and be sure to review the 3 areas prior to your checkup to determine if estate planning updates in Florida are needed. Remember, a healthy estate plan is good for your overall health and wellness.

Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

This article is an update to a previous post on August 13, 2015.  

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