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Estate Planning Options for Jacksonville Couples

Estate planning is a crucial step for couples to ensure their wishes are respected and their assets are protected. For many Jacksonville couples, their estate is their estate together, right? Not always.  If your estates are relatively simple and your interests are the same, it may make sense to use joint estate planning tools.  Couples who are in a first marriage with no children, or who own one piece of real estate property may not need sophisticated tax planning.

However, life and marriages are not always so simple. Let’s say that one spouse owns property or a share of property purchased before the marriage and not co-owned with the spouse. This often occurs when property is owned by members of the spouse’s immediate family, like a business property or a vacation home they own jointly with siblings or parents.  To maintain clarity of ownership and inheritance expectation for bloodline family members, separate wills or trusts for each spouse may be the best solution. For the majority of Jacksonville couples, estate assets will be more complex, and thus may require unique tools to protect the separate interests of each partner. This article explores various estate planning options for couples to consider to ensure that their separate and shared assets are protected while also creating plans for incapacity and long term care.

In his video, Estate Planning for Couples, Estate Planning Attorney Bill O’Leary discusses key considerations and options for estate planning specifically for Jacksonville couples.

Should Couples Have a Joint Will or Separate Wills?

Couples can choose between a joint will that outlines the wishes for both spouses in the same document or separate wills. A joint will covers both spouses or partners, but separate wills offer more flexibility. It’s important to note that joint wills are not recommended by many estate planning professionals, including Bill O’Leary of Legacy Planning Law Group, who advocates for separate wills due to their adaptability to changing circumstances.

Joint or Separate Trusts?

A joint trust, or living trust, is another option for couples. This type of trust is not only for the wealthy; it’s frequently used by everyday Floridians. Trusts can help ensure assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes without the delays and expenses of probate court. For couples, a joint trust can also streamline the management and transfer of shared assets.  Read more in our article, Is a Joint Trust or Separate Trusts Better for a Florida Married Couple?

Spouses Should Each Review Their Beneficiary Designations

It’s vital for couples to regularly review and update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities. These designations should reflect your current wishes and intentions. Coordination between both partners is crucial to avoid conflicts and ensure all assets are properly aligned with your estate plan.

Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directives

Establishing durable powers of attorney for financial and healthcare matters is essential. These legal documents allow each partner to make decisions on behalf of the other if one becomes incapacitated. Healthcare directives also let each spouse outline their preferences for medical care, ensuring that their wishes are followed if they can’t make decisions themselves.

Is Joint Ownership of Property a Good Idea for Couples?

Joint ownership with the right of survivorship means that property automatically passes to the surviving spouse upon the other’s death. While this can be a straightforward approach, it may not be suitable for all Jacksonville couples, particularly in blended families where you might want to ensure children from prior marriages receive part of the inheritance.

Planning for Long-Term Care

Considering long-term care insurance or other plans to address future healthcare needs is vital. This planning helps ensure that neither spouse is financially overburdened by healthcare costs in the future. It can also protect your estate from being depleted by medical expenses.

Estate Tax Planning

For married couples, there are strategies to minimize estate taxes, such as taking advantage of the portability of the estate tax exemption. This allows the unused portion of one spouse’s exemption to be transferred to the surviving spouse, potentially doubling the amount that can be passed on without estate taxes.

Should Spouses Use the Same Estate Planning Attorney?

When considering whether to use the same estate planning attorney, it’s important to weigh the benefits and potential conflicts explains an article in The Street: “Should My Spouse and I Hire the Same Estate Lawyer?”. Using the same attorney can be efficient, cost-effective, and foster mutual trust. However, it might not be suitable if the couple faces underlying issues like differing communication styles, significant age gaps, or complex financial situations.

For example, in blended families, using separate attorneys might be beneficial to ensure each spouse’s interests are adequately represented and to avoid potential conflicts over estate distribution. Additionally, if one spouse owns property in a different state, hiring an attorney familiar with local laws in that state is essential for comprehensive estate planning​.

Personalized Estate Planning is Essential for Each Couple

Every Jacksonville couple’s situation is unique, and estate planning should reflect your specific needs, goals, and family dynamics. It’s important to seek personalized advice from an attorney to create a tailored estate plan that works best for you.

For couples in Jacksonville, Bill O’Leary and the team at Legacy Planning Law Group are dedicated to helping you create an estate plan that fits your unique needs. Schedule a discovery call to get started on a plan that provides peace of mind and security for your future.

Key Takeaways

  1. Separate Wills Over Joint Wills: Separate wills offer more flexibility and adaptability compared to joint wills, which are not recommended by many estate planning attorneys.
  2. Joint Trusts for Asset Management: Joint trusts can help manage and distribute assets smoothly without probate delays, suitable for everyday Floridians, not just the wealthy.
  3. Regular Beneficiary Reviews: Couples should regularly update beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities to reflect current intentions.
  4. Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives: Establishing durable powers of attorney and healthcare directives ensures each partner can make decisions on behalf of the other if incapacitated.
  5. Considerations for Joint vs. Separate Attorneys: Using the same estate attorney can be efficient but might not suit blended families or complex financial situations where separate representation might be beneficial.
  6. Long-Term Care and Estate Tax Planning: Planning for long-term care and utilizing estate tax strategies like the portability of the estate tax exemption are essential steps for couples.
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