Personalized Estate Planning

Estate Administration - Estate Planning

Ensure that your affairs are in order and that your family is protected during your life and in the event of your death with professional estate planning from Andrew Helgesen, P.A., of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. We are here to meet your needs.

What is estate planning?

At the basic level, estate planning means the creation and execution of documents to carry out your intentions concerning the transfer of your property at death and the management of your affairs at and after your death. Almost every estate plan includes a Will, a power of attorney, a living will, and a designation of healthcare surrogate. Often, estate plans include one or more trusts.

Estate Administration

Estate administration (probate) is a process, supervised by the court, by which your assets are transferred to your beneficiaries and your valid debts are paid at your death according to your Will. The probate process does not have to be the cumbersome and burdensome process that it is sometimes made out to be. Nevertheless, probate requires the services of an attorney and can be time consuming. The Will is the operative document that determines how your assets are distributed. If you die with a Will, you die testate. If you die without a Will, you die intestate. In that event, the court must distribute your assets in the way specified by Florida statutes. That is often not how you would want your estate distributed. Depending on your estate plan documents and how you have planned, court supervision can be extensive or virtually eliminated. The use of trusts is one way to avoid some or all of the court's involvement in the distribution of your estate.

Trusts and Trust Administration

Be sure to talk to us about creating one or more trusts for you. Depending on your age and financial circumstances, the use of a trust can benefit you and your family. Trusts facilitate the transfer of assets on death, minimize or eliminate the need for probate, protect family assets from outsiders and can eliminate the need for guardianship. Clients with real estate in more than one state should consider a trust to avoid proobate administration in multiple states. It is not correct that only the wealthy can benefit from trusts. If you have an estate plan that includes a trust you may be able to completely avoid probate and court involvement in your affairs. And, while your Will is filed with the court on death and therefore could be made public, your trust remains private.

Guardianship Avoidance

If you or someone you care about becomes incapicatied, a court supervised guardianship may be necessary. This process is often costly and is under the watchful eye of the court. However, with a properly drawn power of attorney (created after October, 2011) and properly drawn Advance Directives (living will and health care surrogate designation), the affairs of the incapacitated person can be managed without court involvement by the designated agent under the power of attorney and by the designated health care surrogate - often the same person. Without these documents, a guardianship is necessary and so are the services of an lawyer. With the proper planning, you can avoid the guardianship process.

Estate Tax and Inheritance Tax

The estate tax, also referred to as the death tax, is a federal tax controlled by the Internal Revenue Code. It is a tax on the gross estate of the decedent and is not a tax on the individual recipient of the property or money left by the decedent. The gross estate for federal tax purposes includes, with some limited exceptions, all of the assets of the decedent whether owned individually or in trust. The inheritance tax is a tax levied by some states on the recipient of assets from a decedent. Florida does not have an inheritance tax. In very general terms, in 2018 the estate tax law changed to allow individuals and married couples to leave even more assets estate tax free. The exemption amount for individuals has increased to $11,200,000 and for married couples to $22,400.00 - assuming portability is properly elected by the personal representative of the deceased spouse's estate. NOTE: On January 2026, the estate tax exemption amount will revert to $5,000.00, adjusted for inflation, unless Congress acts to preserve the current higher exemption amount. As a result of the current new law, the estate tax is not a concern for most individuals. As noted, for married couples, it is important that upon the death of the first spouse to die for the surviving spouse confer with his or her their attorney and accountant to make the proper portability election by means of an Estate Tax Return (Form 706).

Contact our law firm at (561) 622-7755 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for extensive estate planning and administration services.