Estate planning, like many other big financial plans and decisions, can be overwhelming if you are trying to handle it all by yourself. Just the thought that your life’s work and accomplishments can be boiled down to a handful of documents may be an unsettling thought. Are you making the right decisions? Do you have all the facts? What if you make a mistake?
This is why we advise you to create an estate planning “team” – a group of experts and loved ones who will work together to help you create a plan designed to reflect and protect your wishes, and then execute and divide your assets after you pass away.
Consider the following people when building your estate planning team:
Financial Advisor – Your financial advisor is often the individual who has the clearest picture of where all of your money and other assets are located and how to access them. Without this knowledge, it can be incredibly difficult for whoever helps to draft your will to make proper decisions on how to divide property and assets.
If a financial advisor is key to handling your finances during your lifetime, they are an important resource to consult while you are crafting your estate plan and deciding where you want your finances to go after your death.
Personal Representative – It is a very good idea to keep your personal representative, or executor, in the loop throughout the entire estate planning process. After all, they will be handling the distribution of your will after you pass away. If they are not thoroughly prepared before your death, they may feel blindsided by information that was only given to financial or legal experts.
If they do not have experience in probate and are chosen due to their relationship to you (your spouse or a child, for example), they may also need to consult with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney while going through the process.
Attorney-in-Fact – If you become incapable of making and executing certain financial decisions before your death, you will benefit from drafting a power of attorney. This document names an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” and puts them in control of those decisions and actions. Like a personal representative, an attorney-in-fact should be kept in the loop about your intentions and wishes for your estate.
Estate Planning Attorney – Estate planning attorneys serve as the experts in how to arrange and modify your estate plan throughout the course of your life, including crafting wills, trusts, and more.
Laws about estate planning in Florida are always changing. Your attorney will ensure that you are aware of legal changes and how to arrange your finances within the existing laws.
An attorney will also be able to help your personal representative get through probate, including providing assistance with any litigation matters.
You’ve Assembled Your Team – Now Make the Introductions
Communication with each party will help your personal representative complete their duties effectively and with your intentions in mind. Give each party the name and contact information of each member of your estate planning team. It will allow everyone to communicate after you pass away and allow for consistent, effective decisions regarding probate and your last wishes.
Additionally, make sure you keep each party updated and aware of any changes to your estate plan, as well as the reasons for the decisions in your estate planning documents. This can help to ease concerns and deter litigation.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the President of Wintter & Associates, P.A. , a four-lawyer trust and estate firm. Mr. Wintter is a Florida Bar Board-Certified Expert in Trust and Estate Law. With more than 28 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers Magazine for 2011, 2012, and 2014-2016 in Estate and Trust Litigation, and was selected for inclusion to the Best Lawyers in America in 2016 in the area of Estate and Trust Litigation.