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Non-Traditional Estate Planning in Florida

Non-traditional Estate Planning in Florida

The definition of “family” has expanded to become more inclusive over the past 25 years to include many variations in lifestyle. For those who live a non-traditional lifestyle, the importance of non-traditional estate planning in Florida may be even greater than for traditional families.

A non-traditional family may involve a couple living in an unmarried relationship. A blended family with children from previous relationships may also require non-traditional estate planning in Florida.

The unique circumstances that arise with any non-traditional planning require special attention to detail and nothing can be taken for granted.  As a result, Florida estate planning for these circumstances has evolved to offer special solutions and planning options.

Non-Traditional Estate Planning Worksheet

Three Major Areas of Non-Traditional Estate Planning in Florida

The three most common TYPES of non-traditional estate planning in Florida include planning for:

  1. blended families joined due to divorce or death
  2. divorced people desiring to protect wealth
  3. unmarried cohabitants (includes same sex couples)

1.  Florida Estate Planning for Blended Families

Getting a divorce creates a need for non-traditional estate planning in Florida. When divorced partners come together to create a new family unit, a number of unique estate planning issues arise. One of the big concerns is always to provide for one’s own children from the previous marriage while also taking care of the new spouse.

Blended families require special attention and strategically using a Florida revocable living trust may be invaluable.  Using a Florida revocable living trust is usually the best way to limit the ability of the new spouse to undo the estate plan while also preserving a portion of the estate for the children of the prior marriage.

Other blended family estate planning matters include adoption of a child (or adult for various reasons) or providing for stepchildren. Often, spouses in a second marriage maintain separate financial accounts and are less integrated than partners in first marriages.  All of these concerns set the stage for issues that may only be addressed with a solid Florida estate plan that is up to date AND addresses these kinds of unique concerns.

2.  Estate Planning Tips For Divorced People With Wealth.

Many divorced people, especially females – at the risk of sounding politically incorrect, come from relationships where they left the bulk of the financial responsibility to the former spouse. With blended families, estate planning for each spouse may be quite different for the reasons discussed above. It is therefore important for the estate planner to consider the needs of each spouse individually. The independent needs of each spouse are important when considering who the appointees of each spouse will be.

Various roles estate planning roles should be considered such as a Florida durable power of attorney, Florida advance healthcare directive, and a  Florida guardianship declaration. Remember, in blended families, the appointees for each spouse may be different for each spouse for obvious reasons. This isn’t always the case with traditional families.

In traditional families, particularly where couples were married younger, the majority of the spouses relationships have been formed together and thus the spouses are more likely to appoint the same people for various fiduciary roles.  

There is a also greater likelihood for conflicts of interest in blended families. Both families may need to be represented by separate estate planning attorneys if too many conflicts arise.

3.   Estate Planning Tips For Same Sex Couples

The greatest change for same sex couples is that the federal estate tax benefits available to traditional spouses are now available to non-traditional couples.  As I’ve discussed in previous articles about the federal estate tax and portability, the marital deduction allows each spouse to pass approximately $5.49 million in assets to beneficiaries. The transfer limit between spouses is unlimited as of this writing. At the state level, things could are a bit more complicated as the states individually adjust to the new federal marriage requirements for estate taxes.

The same challenges that arise for blended families mentioned above also hold true for same sex couples. Also, the same concerns that apply to conflicts of interest apply to estate planning attorneys and other professionals when assisting same sex couples with non-traditional estate planning.

As always, these are unique circumstances which require an in depth analysis of the specific situation.  Complex estate planning, and in particular non-traditional estate planning in Florida, should always be conducted by an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.

Steve Gibbs, Esq.

This is an updated version of original article published on July 22, 2015. 

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