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Don’t do as Celebrites Do – Make an Effective Estate Plan

We are hearing that many recently deceased celebrities, like James Gandolfini, didn’t take the time to make a clear and effective estate plan. The unfortunate results are:

  • Expensive litigation
  • Broken families
  • Loss of privacy

Here are some simple tips you can follow so that your estate plan does not become the topic of conversation in the media:

  1. Update Your Documents: Update your Will or Trust when there is a major life change (i.e. birth, death, marriage, divorce). Anna Nicole Smith did not update her estate plan after her adult son died months before her new baby was born. This created confusion in determining who should inherit her estate.
  2. Disinheriting a Family member: While there is no requirement in Florida to leave an inheritance for a family member it is recommended that your Will or Trust specifically state that you are intentionally not providing for that person. You may even want to designate a token amount such as $10.00.
  3. Providing for Your Spouse: In Florida, you cannot disinherit your spouse. Florida law provides for an ‘elective share’ which is one-third of everything you own whether it goes through probate or by-passes probate (i.e. revocable trust assets). The exceptions to this are if you and your spouse entered into a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement where you waive your right to inherit.
  4. Digital Assets: In today’s age of technology, many important documents and information are in a digital format. These include passwords, photos, social media, etc. Be sure to designate in your Will or Trust the beneficiary of your digital assets.

Tale: NFL Quarterback Steve McNair died without any estate plan and left behind a wife, minor children and his mother.  The absence of a plan left his wife having to ask the Court for money to live on while the probate was pending. His mother had to move out of a house he built for her since she could not afford to pay rent.

Tip: Understand the impact of no estate plan: If you die without a Will or a Trust the state laws dictate who inherits and how much. This is called dying ‘intestate.’ Dying intestate may not be what you really want.
While you may be uncomfortable initially facing the reality of your eventual demise, taking the time to be informed and creating an estate plan shows courage and respect for loved ones left behind.