Florida estate planning checklist

Florida Estate Planning Checklist in 10 Easy Steps

Florida Estate Planning Checklist: 10 Ways to Get Your Affairs in Order

Estate planning is vital to ensuring your property is distributed according to your wishes after passing away. Each state has specific considerations and laws that come into play when crafting an effective estate plan

Our Florida estate planning checklist aims to guide you through the key steps to secure your legacy and give you and your loved ones peace of mind. However, every estate is different, so you should consult an experienced attorney about your unique needs before executing the documents listed below.

The Florida Estate Plan Checklist

Before you start ticking boxes, it’s important to define your goals for your estate plan. Write down what’s most important to you, whether it involves providing for your family, minimizing taxes, or supporting charitable causes. Consider your current financial situation, anticipated future needs, and the legacy you want to leave behind. This is a simple but effective way to create a central pillar supporting all of your estate plan’s provisions.

It’s also important that you begin writing about you. Communicating your story to your children or other loved ones is incredibly important. Similarly, if you’re donating to a charity – send a message along that explains the reasons for making that donation. How would you like to see your donation be put to use? You’re so much more than just dollars and stuff – tell your story!

1. Create a Will

A last will and testament is the foundation of any estate plan. Before deciding who should inherit your property, you should make a detailed list of every asset and liability in your name. Common assets include real estate deeds, cars, checking and savings accounts, credit cards, student loans, investment accounts, insurance policies, and retirement accounts.

  • Draft a comprehensive will that specifies how you want your assets distributed.
  • Appoint a personal representative that you trust to carry out the provisions in your will and distribute inheritances to your beneficiaries.
  • If you have minor children, choose a guardian who will care for them until they come of age.
  • Make sure your will is executed in compliance with Florida probate laws.

2. Establish a Living Will and Healthcare Proxy

These documents ensure that one’s healthcare wishes are respected and followed during critical situations, providing clarity and support to family and medical professionals.

  • Create a Living Will. This is a legal document stating your medical treatment preferences if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate. It specifies desires regarding life-sustaining measures and organ donation.
  • Designate a Healthcare Proxy. A Healthcare Proxy, or Power of Attorney for Healthcare, authorizes a trusted person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they cannot do so themselves.
  • Include copies of these documents in your medical records.

Expert tip: Ensure that you specify which of these documents controls the decision. It’s possible that you might want to forego life-sustaining measures, but your Healthcare Agent thinks otherwise (especially if a family member is your agent!).

3. Set Up a Financial Power of Attorney

Your Healthcare Power of Attorney can only make medical decisions on your behalf. If you become incapacitated, you will need a Financial Power of Attorney to pay your bills, buy and sell property, and manage your financial affairs.

  • Appoint a trusted individual to oversee your finances if you are incapacitated.
  • Specify the extent of their authority and responsibilities.

Important: Under Florida law, a power of attorney is effective as soon as it’s signed. This is different from other states that permit a power of attorney to be contingent (or “springing” in legal lingo) on the occurrence of an event in the future (example – you become incapacitated). 

4. Consider a Revocable Living Trust

A trust is a legal arrangement where an individual, the grantor, places their assets into a trust during their lifetime. In the event of the grantor’s incapacity or death, a successor trustee takes over, managing and distributing assets to beneficiaries without the need for probate. A Revocable Living Trust provides privacy, avoids the cost and delays of probate, and allows for more seamless asset management, offering flexibility and control over the distribution of one’s estate.

  • Decide which assets should be placed in your living trust
  • Name a trustee to manage trust assets and distribute them according to your instructions.
  • Consult with an attorney to execute your trust document.
  • Make sure your trust has been properly funded.

5. Address Florida Homestead Laws

Homestead Laws significantly impact your estate plan by offering protections and exemptions for your primary residence. These laws safeguard your homestead from certain creditors and can reduce property taxes but also impose certain restrictions. Take advantage of the unique homestead laws in Florida and plan accordingly to maximize benefits for your heirs.

Important: Homestead law supersedes the written instructions in an estate plan if those instructions contradict the homestead rules in Florida’s Constitution and statutes.

6. Consider Your Business

If you own your own company, you need measures in place now to ensure a smooth transition without jeopardizing the company’s stability. Estate planning for small businesses involves the what, who, when, and how of transferring your business assets to the next generation.

  • Ensure your estate plan aligns with your business’s legal structure. Different structures (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation) may require specific strategies to address ownership transfer, tax implications, and continuity. 
  • Determine the value of your business and explore funding options for the buyout or transfer.
  • Identify your successors, establish a timeline for succession planning, and communicate the plan to key stakeholders.
  • Clearly outline how your business will transition in the event of your incapacity or passing.

Expert tip: Your business will likely be worth thousands, if not millions more, if you transfer your interests during your lifetime rather than leaving it to your estate or trust.

7. Mitigate Estate Taxes

No checklist for getting your affairs in order would be complete without considering estate taxes. With strategic planning, you may be able to minimize the amount of Florida estate taxes your heirs will pay upon your passing, preserving your wealth for future generations.

  • Familiarize yourself with federal and state estate tax laws.
  • Consider gifting assets during your lifetime to reduce the taxable estate. Use the annual gift tax exclusion and lifetime gift tax exemption to transfer wealth efficiently.
  • Weight the pros and cons of establishing trusts, such as irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILITs).
  • Work with financial and legal professionals to create a tailored plan that maximizes available exemptions and minimizes tax liabilities.

Heads up: In 2024, each person is able to exempt $13,610,000 from estate taxes. This number will probably increase in 2025 too. BUT, this high exemption amount will sunset on December 31, 2025. Use it or lose it!

8. Organize Important Documents

Create a comprehensive file containing your will, trusts, deeds, insurance policies, and other essential documents. Clearly label folders and sections, including a list of key contacts and instructions, and keep everything in a secure and easily accessible place. Inform trusted family members (such as your chosen executor) about the location and existence of these documents.

9. Communicate Your Plans

Communicating your estate plans with your family is essential to prevent confusion and conflict after your passing. Informed family members are better equipped to carry out your wishes, making the process of managing and distributing assets more efficient.  

  • Openly discuss your estate plans with family members, beneficiaries, and key individuals involved.
  • Provide an opportunity to address concerns, answer questions, and help family members understand your intentions.
  • Include an explanation for controversial choices in your plan to minimize potential disputes or misunderstandings.

10. Make Regular Updates

Estate plans need to be updated every few years to stay effective. Changes in family dynamics, assets, or laws could result in the loss of thousands of dollars—or your most precious belongings going to the wrong person.

  • Regularly review and update your documents to align with changing tax laws.
  • Revise your beneficiary designations to align with your current wishes and circumstances.
  • Update the provisions of your will to account for life changes (such as divorce, remarriage, birth of a child, or death of an heir).

Your Estate Plan Goes Beyond Ticking Boxes

Going through a checklist for estate planning can protect your assets and minimize complications for your loved ones. However, you should always seek out an estate planning attorney with business succession and tax planning experience to tailor your plan to your specific needs.

If you’re questioning how to get your affairs in order before you die, email us at hello@yolofskylaw.com today or schedule a 15-minute call for assistance.