In today’s society, there is a faster, “short cut” version for just about anything on the internet. Shopping, communicating, and now, even estate planning. As probate attorneys in Florida, Arvantakis Law Group has seen numerous estate planning files consisting of some do-it-yourself online services. We do appreciate that using a DIY site to prepare your will can save cash and time. Occasionally, doing it in this manner could result in expensive and unwanted estate planning mistakes.
In some cases, some of the estate plans might even be missing essential planning documents and information that the average person wouldn’t know to ask to include. These sites generally have lawyers on personnel, however, access to specific assistance for your personal documents is rarely offered. And if it is offered, it can be even more costly.
These programs aren’t new, DIY options for estate strategy have been available nearly as long as the internet has been around. Dating back beyond that, there were even software application plans that you could buy off the shelf.
Below are 4 common mistakes that are made when using DIY options for your estate planning:
Appointment of a Personal Representative
It is a great idea to appoint a trusted, competent person to manage your estate and protect the interests of your beneficiaries. Speak with an expert to know what is best for your estate plan and if there is any important information you need to know regarding personal representatives. In Florida, the law requires that a personal representative must be a Florida resident unless they are related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Additionally, the personal representative must be 18 years of age, both physically and mentally able to perform the responsibilities of the personal representative, and have not been convicted of a felony.
If the appointment of a personal representative is ineffective because the chosen person is ineligible, then a court may appoint someone. This may add additional stress or conflict to the family during the grieving process if the court appoints someone you do not entrust with the role.
Failure to Consider Taxes and Other Legal Issues
Passing along money or belongings following a death is not as simple as just naming the beneficiary in your will. Some of these assets may have serious impacts on taxation and whether or not the beneficiary receives those assets. For example, if a house is passed on to a surviving spouse or descendant, it is generally protected from creditors. If that same house is sold so the proceeds can be distributed to beneficiaries, the creditors may intercept those proceeds, and protection is forfeited.
Speak to an experienced attorney today about the legal and tax consequences that may affect different methods of passing along property after death and protecting your beneficiaries.
Using Terminology Loosely
In today’s society, where blended families are more common than what they once were and the definition of a “family” can be even more complex. The language applied by the probate court may be similar and yet have a different meaning when applied to different families. Stepchildren are a great example of this. Think for a moment you have two biological children and a stepchild that you raise from infancy. You see no difference in your relationship to either and raise each child equally as your child. But if your estate states for assets to be dispersed “ equally to my children”, then only your two biological children will receive money and the stepchild will receive nothing.
Stopping With Only a Will
Though a will is important in estate planning, it may leave questions unanswered and leave gaps in an estate plan. One of these gaps may include the appointment of a guardian or someone to make medical and financial decisions in case you are left incapacitated before your children reach adulthood.
Speak to a Professional
At Aranitakis Law Group we work closely with our clients to ensure that their beneficiaries and their assets are protected and properly distributed following their passing. We are happy to answer any and all questions you may have regarding your estate planning. Give us a call or contact today to get started on your estate planning. If you have already chosen the DIY route, we are more than happy to help solidify and protect the estate plan and fill in any gaps that may be left.