Estate planning is not something anyone wants to think about. In fact, it’s one of the easiest adult tasks to push off until later… and later…. and later. Something else always feels more pressing than your own death. Frankly, it’s hard, and uncomfortable, to think about. So you put it out of your head as long as you can.
At some point, someone will have to deal with your death. Whether you live a long happy life or not. A dear friend of ours recently experienced the unthinkable when her young, vibrant parents were murdered. Around the same time, another friend lost both parents in a drunk driving accident. The grief they’re both experiencing is unfathomable… and then to top it off, the ensuing paperwork, admin and court system drama have just piled on to an already impossible situation.
Anyone who has ever lost a parent or spouse unexpectedly knows that the grief doesn’t let up just because you have to deal with probate, life insurance or splitting up assets. And sadly, it’s all too common for families to come to blows over cars, homes, investments, heck, even pets, if clear instructions and legally binding documents aren’t left behind. I’ve seen it myself with the loss of grandparents many years ago. People lose their minds over assets and inheritance, even in relatively small amounts.
When this happened to our friends, it hit too close to home. I knew we had to get our estate in order – though I wouldn’t call it much of an estate. There are still assets, health requests and whatnot that we’d like honored in the event of worst case scenario. So we did the grown-up thing and set an appointment to chat with a local estate planning firm in Jacksonville.
Estate Planning Firm in Jacksonville, Florida
Several friends recommended Three Oaks Law to us, so that’s where we started our estate planning journey. Three Oaks Law is a boutique law firm in Jacksonville, Florida, with a client-centered approach to the law. Founded by Sabrina Bateh Kuruvilla, the firm’s ethos is rooted in service to both clients and the community at large. They are professional and top notch, but their compassion is what drew me to the firm.
Like I said, compared to others with “estate plans” I don’t feel like we have a whole lot to divvy up if we were to depart this planet earlier than anticipated. But Three Oaks tailored our plan to our individual needs and guided us to the best solutions to protect our assets and our families. I didn’t know a thing about trusts when I walked through the door… so I came prepared with about 1,000 questions.
- What’s the difference between irrevocable and revocable trust?
- What is probate and why do we want to avoid it?
- How can I ensure the majority of our assets pass to relatives and not to taxes / the government?
- Is it possible to disinherit someone?
- Can I get by with having just a will or do I need something more?
- What happens to my pets if I die?
There are so many questions, so if you’re like me and CLUELESS, read on for our experience.
What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
Without a legal will and/or trust, your assets and the care of your minor children could be subject to the laws of the state you live in – potentially conflicting with your wishes. If you don’t have it sorted out, you may be leaving an insane mess to clean up with your grieving kids.
The main difference between a will and a trust is that a will only comes into effect after the death of the person who created it, while a trust can be made effective during their lifetime. A will simply distributes assets to beneficiaries after the creator’s death, while a trust allows them to control how those assets are managed throughout their life.
In addition to this, a will is generally more limited in scope compared to a trust. It is typically used simply for asset distribution, and does not provide any control or management of those assets while the creator is still alive. A trust on the other hand affords its creator maximum flexibility when it comes to controlling their estate. Trusts can be structured to include provisions for managing and distributing assets, as well as strategies to reduce taxes and provide for the care of dependents.
Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. As the name implies, a revocable trust can be revoked or changed throughout the creator’s lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot be altered in any way once it is set up. Irrevocable trusts are generally more popular for estate planning purposes, as they offer greater asset protection from creditors and provide access to tax advantages.
It is important to note that both wills and trusts can be used together in an estate plan. In some cases, a will may be necessary to ensure proper distribution of assets after the creator’s death, while a trust might be used to manage those assets during their lifetime. Ultimately, the best estate planning solution will depend on the individual’s needs and circumstances.
How Important Are Healthcare Directives?
There’s more to estate planning than avoiding probate and legal issues, and this stuff is even harder to think about. But making decisions now regarding life support, organ donation, funeral arrangements, religious considerations, and family dynamics is guaranteed to save grieving relatives more hardship.
We appointed a trustworthy healthcare agent who will be our advocate. Someone we trust to make important decisions about our medical treatment. This person has the authority to hire or fire healthcare providers, consent to or deny recommended treatments, authorize pain relief, and arrange long-term care if needed.
Do you know who that person is if something were to happen to you tomorrow? And if not, why not?
Planning Ahead for Care of Minor Children and Inheritance
Estate planning is even more critical if you have minor children. A Child Protection Plan will outline who the desired guardians will be in the event of a tragedy. It’s the best way to avoid kids ending up with CPS, foster care or in limbo with the wrong people. Even if you have a will naming guardians, that only goes into effect upon death – not incapacitation. And it’s only official after everything goes through probate.
And let me tell you, if I’ve learned anything from my friends’ recent losses, you want to avoid probate like it’s the plague. Probate can be an expensive, time-consuming process. It involves going to court and having a judge oversee the legal distribution of your assets after you pass away. This process can take up to several months just to complete, and includes significant fees that are required from your estate for the costs involved. Additionally, since probate proceedings are held in public, it could be viewed as a violation of your privacy. Furthermore, probate can also result in unnecessary delays in the distribution of assets to your heirs. By avoiding probate, you can save your family from the hassle and expenses associated with it, and ensure that they receive their inheritance more quickly.
Another reason to avoid probate is due to its lack of flexibility when dealing with the distribution of assets. Probate proceedings are set in stone and cannot be changed once they have begun. This means that if you change your mind about how you want to distribute your assets, or if certain family members need more than you initially anticipated, then there is no way to modify the original arrangements.
Tl;DR: probate takes forever, it costs a fortune and it can all be avoided with estate planning upfront. If you have little ones, a CPP is a must.
I’m not rich! Why would I need to worry about estate planning?
Estate planning can help protect your assets and ensure that they are distributed in accordance with your wishes, which is especially important if you have family members or beneficiaries who may not receive an inheritance otherwise. It also helps to reduce the tax burden on your estate, both now and for future generations. Estate planning can provide peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to provide for your family after you are gone.
For those who have a significant estate, it is also important to plan ahead in order to avoid disputes or other legal issues that can arise if relatives do not agree on the distribution of assets. With an effective estate plan in place, you can be sure that your wishes will be followed and no one will be left out of the process.
Estate planning in Jacksonville is also important for those who may not have a lot of assets but still need to provide for their family after they are gone. For example, if you have minor children or adult children with special needs, it is important to make sure that any remaining assets or investments are distributed appropriately and that someone is appointed to manage the assets for their benefit. Likewise, if you have elderly parents or a disabled family member who relies on your financial support, it is important to make sure that they will be taken care of after you are gone.
Estate planning is not just about protecting yourself and your loved ones; it can also provide an opportunity to leave behind a legacy. With a comprehensive estate plan, you can ensure that the causes or organizations you care deeply about will receive any donations or bequests you have specified in your documents. This allows you to make an impact and leave something of lasting value behind even after you are gone.
Planning your estate is not a one-time event; it should be reviewed regularly as your life and financial situation change. It is important to keep in mind that even if you have an estate plan in place, changes may need to be made as time passes and circumstances evolve. Therefore, it is essential to periodically review your estate plan with a professional advisor to make sure everything is up-to-date and still meets your needs.
Estate Planning in Jacksonville at Three Oaks Law
Thinking about creating a will and divvying up our stuff in case of a tragedy is not fun, and you can tell that the team at Three Oaks has taken that into account. The office is welcoming and cozy, with drinks and snacks available as soon as you arrive. For something as gravely serious as it is, the team really makes you feel comfortable, explaining all the complexities of trusts, wills, health care advanced directives and guardianships in detail. I would rather think about anything else, honestly, but it didn’t take much time at all to discuss what we needed, put together some documents and sign the papers. I’d say less than a month’s time from start to finish. For something as serious as developing a last will and testament, it was surprisingly painless!
The process was simple. We had a consultation at the office with our attorney to discuss our various wishes and what documents would be right for us to include in our plan. A few weeks later, we came back to sign what felt like a zillion papers. It was a lot like closing day on a house, except instead of leaving with keys, we left with an Estate Planning Portfolio with all our key documents. Three Oaks keeps a copy as well. We can change things in our will anytime – you know, just in case someone gets on my nerves – and the team is always available for questions.
There are plenty of things I’d rather do on a Friday afternoon than decide who gets to make my healthcare decisions and who gets my 401k if I pass on, but it was way better than going to the dentist. So don’t be freaked out if this is something you need to do. Yes, being an adult is a huge scam, but in the grand scheme of things, this is one of those things that really makes life easier and isn’t all that hard to do. If you’re in Florida and need to look into estate planning in Jacksonville, get in touch with the incredible all-women team at Three Oaks Law and they’ll walk you through it. Tell them Jax Traveler sent you!