February is a month of only 28 days but it is still chock full of fun holidays that all seem to have something to do with estate planning. What you don’t know about estate planning might not kill you but it will hurt your family when something else does, so here are some fun estate planning facts for your clients, with a February theme.
Groundhog Day– Did you know that without a correctly executed Living Will, the hospital must keep the patient alive artificially, no matter what their true wishes are and no matter how much money it costs the patient’s family? Perpetual artificial life in persistent vegetative state is the epitome of living the same day over and over again, without any of the charm and comedy of Bill Murray. While most people think of distribution of assets and tax savings when they think of estate planning, getting a correctly executed Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Designation of Health Care Surrogate can sometimes be even more important.
Mardi Gras– The colors of Mardi Gras symbolize Faith, Power, and Justice. If you have faith in the power of the justice system to see to it that your assets are distributed fairly upon your death, you have probably had one too many Hurricanes. Without a Living Trust to distribute your assets, your wishes will be subject to the whims of a probate judge or the Florida Statutes. For smaller estates with no “family nuances,” this may not pose a huge problem. However, for any estate over $75,000 or belonging to any member of a “nuclear family” (i.e. divorced parents, adopted children, unfavorable in-laws, children from prior marriages, etc.), a full probate administration could prove to be financially devastating to the family left behind. The easiest way to avoid probate completely is to distribute assets through a living trust.
Valentine’s Day– Estate planning isn’t about you; it’s about protecting those you love after you are gone. We pay for health insurance for our children because they might get sick. We pay for car insurance for our spouses because they might get into an accident. We save money in a pre-paid college plan in case our children need help paying for school. We plan for “what if’s” on a daily basis yet we constantly avoid the planning necessary for after we die. While our children may get sick, our spouses may get into a car accident, and we may need financial assistance for college, there is only one certainty. The death rate in Florida is 100 percent. As for that other so-called certainty, while we can’t keep you alive forever, we can help to eliminate any tax burden your family might have to shoulder after you are gone.
February is a very short month so you had better get moving quickly and get your estate plan in place before it’s too late.