Legal Guidance in Making Decisions About Your Alabama or Florida Estate
To make sure that your assets are properly protected and distributed upon your death, and that your wishes are carried out, you should consult an experienced attorney. If you do not plan properly, or if you write a will that is not legally enforceable, the IRS or the state tax agency may take a large portion of your assets. To prevent that prospect, the estate planning lawyers at Milam & Milam can help you create an estate plan under Florida or Alabama law. We will work diligently to help you with goals such as defining the type of medical treatment you want, minimizing your estate tax, ensuring that some of your assets are left to the charities of your choice, and transferring ownership of a family business in an efficient manner.
Some of the estate planning matters that we handle include wills and testamentary trusts, revocable and irrevocable trusts, assisted living and advanced health care directives, durable powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney, the creation of family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, insurance planning, and life insurance trusts. We also advise our clients on long term care planning, home and asset protection, and Medicaid and disability planning.
Drafting a Will or Living Trust
Many individuals, particularly elderly people, need help drafting valid documents such as wills or trusts. However, the laws that govern the protection and distribution of assets through these instruments vary from state to state, and a knowledgeable attorney can help you make plans in accordance with these complicated legal standards. For instance, under Florida law, failure to create a valid will or trust can result in your property going through probate, which can be a difficult and time-consuming process, particularly if your family does not all live in the state. A will goes into effect only when you die, whereas you can put a trust into effect while you are alive.
A will is only valid if it meets specific formalities set forth in the Florida Probate Code. The person who makes the will is called the "testator." A testator's will must be in writing and include the testator's signature at the end of the document. Two witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator and in each other's presence. Although a beneficiary may be the witness, it may be better for someone who has no interest in the will to witness it. Otherwise, there may be a claim of improper influence later.
There are several advantages to trusts over wills. Wills are more often the basis of a challenge by disappointed family members than a living trust is. Many elderly Florida residents prefer living trusts because they permit a person to designate someone to handle business affairs in the event of incapacitation. This minimizes the involvement of the court in your personal affairs. Living trusts also give you greater control over how your assets are used by beneficiaries.
If you have a taxable estate and live in Florida, you should be aware that living trusts allow you to make use of a Credit Shelter Trust, also called an AB or Bypass Trust. This permits couples to pass more tax-free money to the beneficiaries of their choice by utilizing each spouse's estate tax exclusion.
Estate Planning Attorneys Serving the Gulf Coast
You may be tempted to try to draft a will or another estate document on your own. However, if there is any sort of ambiguity in an estate planning document, it may be challenged, and your wishes may not be honored. This makes it important to consult an experienced will and trust lawyer on the Gulf Coast to make sure you protect your assets as you see fit. At Milam & Milam, we have 25 years of combined experience serving Alabama and Florida clients. We can help you with all of your estate planning needs. Our office is near Mobile, in the Baldwin County city of Fairhope. Contact us by calling 251-928-0191 or request a consultation through our online form.