It’s impossible to say when exactly it will happen, but eventually, you will die. When that happens, you’re no longer in control of what happens to your assets, including properties, accounts, and other items that may be of beneficial value to family, friends, and loved ones. That’s why it’s crucial to draft a will and dive into the world of estate planning as soon as possible: when your time comes, you want to know the people you care for will be taken care of.
But the process of drafting a valid will and ensuring a smooth asset disbursement process after your death is one with plenty of opportunities for potential mistakes and pitfalls. Families often consult estate planning attorneys to help avoid these mistakes, but those that don’t may more easily encounter them in situations where they fail to grasp how Florida’s estate planning laws apply to their circumstances.
Some mistakes are more common than others and generally consist of oversights in the estate planning process. These include failure to appoint a personal representative to administer your estate, pay necessary expenses related to your assets, and carry out any instructions you’ve left, as well as failure to settle debts prior to your death and failure to leave a will at all. We’ll take a closer look at each of these mistakes and their potential associated consequences.
As mentioned previously, a personal representative oversees all major matters related to your estate. They’re responsible for ensuring the proper distribution of your assets to named heirs, hiring additional professionals to assist in the administration of those assets, and paying any necessary expenses associated with them, including claims by creditors, tax returns, and more.
Ultimately, they’re the main person you trust to ensure your assets are secured and distributed to the right people. That’s why failing to appoint one yourself can have potentially serious consequences for the management of your estate: if you haven’t appointed a personal representative to handle matters relating to your estate, it’s left for your descendants (or if they can’t decide, the courts) to decide.
Choosing your own representative puts control over who gets which of your assets in your hands to the greatest extent possible. It’s helpful for preventing conflict between family members over those assets and making sure everything goes where you intend it to.
If you have any number of outstanding debts at the time of your death, this could spell trouble for the financial security of your heirs, even if you have a will. This, of course, largely depends on the size and extent of the debts you’ve left unsettled, but the main point of concern is that anything you owe at the time of your death must be paid before your assets reach your actual family, friends, and other loved ones.
After your death, your creditors will be notified so that they may be given the opportunity to file a claim in your estate. These debts may also include taxes owed to the IRS. No matter the source or cause of your outstanding debts at the time of your death, it’ll be left to your personal representative and potentially other associates to cover those costs for any of your heirs to gain access to what you’ve left behind for them.
The biggest estate planning mistake is not to leave a will at all. Your assets will still most likely make it into the hands of your family members, but how this process occurs will largely be under the control of the courts. Your best bet at making sure every friend or family member you planned to leave a part of your estate to receives those assets, and that none of them end up fighting over those assets after your death, is to write it out in a valid will.
You can easily prevent these mistakes with the help of a Tampa, FL wills and estate planning attorney like Anthony Candela. At Candela Law Firm, we’re confident we can protect your family and assets and create as smooth of an administration process as possible. For a free consultation, get in touch with us now.
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