The American legal landscape is littered with misconceptions. In Florida, perhaps no area of the law is as replete with those misunderstandings as estate planning. Ask a neighbor what he or she knows about the transfer of ownership of property following someone’s death and you’ll likely get strong, quick answers. Unfortunately, quite often the answers are wrong.
At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., attorneys practicing law in the St. Johns/Jacksonville areas have heard most of the common misconceptions. Here are five – among many – that are quite common:
- I’m young and I don’t have much property, so I don’t need estate planning. First, you might be surprised at how quickly the value of an estate can accumulate. Do you have life insurance? Does your employer have a policy on your life, even an accidental death policy? Do you have even a modest retirement account? While some of these assets may pass to your heirs by operation of law, their value often is still included in your estate. It is much better to have an overall, comprehensive plan than deals with assets in a piecemeal fashion. Above all, estate planning isn’t just for people of means.
- My children get along. I can just let them sort it out. It is amazing what folks will fight about, particularly when the strong parental influence is no longer there. Some assets are impossible to divide. What do you do with Grandmother’s engagement ring? If you can’t spell it out, how do you expect others to agree?
- If you don’t have a will, the state of Florida will take a chunk of your assets. One would think that this misconception would cause Floridians to flock to attorneys’ offices for guidance. Yet when it comes to estate planning, most people imitate the ostrich, sticking their heads in the beautiful Florida sand. So, please hear this: If you die without a will, the state does not automatically take a segment of your assets (other than the relatively modest assortment of administration fees, etc., that are paid through the probate system). Instead, through what are called intestacy laws, the state essentially crafts a will for you. The intestacy laws, however, may not pass your property along in the manner and amounts that you necessarily want. Without a properly drafted will, the estate administration can also become complicated if minor children are involved; but again, Florida doesn’t seize your property.
- I have a durable power of attorney. My heirs can just use it. This is a particularly dangerous misconception. A power of attorney – even a durable power of attorney – is revoked by death.
- Estate planning is prohibitively expensive. I can get a do-it-yourself kit and save. Perhaps you can save some money. Then again, your heirs may find that you were penny wise and pound-foolish. All too many families have discovered that the savings at the front end – in drafting costs – are lost if the will is determined to be ambiguous or even silent about an important matter. Estate planning is worth doing, and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Talk With Our Experienced Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorneys
Estate planning issues should not be postponed. At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we know that “one size” doesn’t fit all. We have the knowledge and experience to customize your estate planning documents to meet your individual and family needs. We have extensive experience and are pleased to serve clients in Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Flagler, and Putnam counties. Call us at (904) 288–4414 or complete our online form.