Gierach and Gierach, P.A.

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Gierach and Gierach, P.A.

Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning in Florida

Answers from Orlando attorneys

Estate planning at its best protects your family and your legacy by passing control of your affairs and assets to people you trust to manage them properly. At Gierach and Gierach, P.A., we understand you may have questions about estate planning, so we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive and provided answers. For more information, please contact us. With a solid estate plan in place, you and your family can enjoy peace of mind and get on with the business of living.

Speak to an experienced estate planning attorney

An estate planning attorney at our firm is glad to assist you with any aspect of estate planning in Winter Park, Orlando, and throughout Orange County. Call Gierach and Gierach, P.A. at 407-545-5744 or (844) 431-0813, or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation. We also assist people from other states needing legal assistance in Florida.

Do I need a will?

Without a last will and testament, you are relinquishing control over how your assets will be distributed and giving that power to the state of Florida. A will is a legal document providing a set of instructions to the court regarding how your real property and personal property should be distributed. A valid will, thoughtfully prepared by you with the advice of wise counsel, minimizes family conflict over your estate because the will clearly states your wishes.

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Do I need an attorney to write my will?

The laws relating to estate planning and wills are complex.  Florida, like every other state, has its own set of rules on how a will should be drafted and signed.  If a will is not written correctly and executed properly, it may not be admitted to probate.  An experienced attorney from Gierach and Gierach, P.A. can help you draft a valid will that truly expresses your wishes and satisfies all formation requirements.

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What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of the administration of your estate after your death. A will must be submitted to probate court to be executed upon the testator’s death. A probate judge examines the will for flaws and decides whether or not it satisfies the requirements of a proper last will and testament under Florida law.

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How do I avoid probate?

The best way to avoid probate is to create a living trust during your lifetime. A trust is a legal structure whereby you appoint a person or team of people to manage assets that are transferred to the trust. A trust involves three parties: the settlor, trustee and beneficiary. The settlor is the creator of the trust. The trustee is the person designated by the settlor to manage the assets placed within the trust. The beneficiary is the person or class of people designated to benefit from the assets placed in the trust. Our Florida estate planning attorneys can determine if your estate can be efficiently structured in such a way to completely avoid probate.

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What is the role of a personal representative in probate?

The personal representative is designated in the will of the decedent or appointed by the probate court and has a fiduciary responsibility to the court, creditors and beneficiaries of an estate. The personal representative’s duties include accounting for and protecting all assets (including household furnishings, jewelry and tangible property, as well as real estate, stocks, bonds and money), paying off any of the estate's creditors and distributing whatever remains to the decedent's heirs. If the decedent did not leave a last will and testament directing the distribution of the decedent's property, the court directs the personal representative in distributing the decedent's assets.

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What about estate taxes?

Florida does not impose an estate tax, a tax paid by the estate, or an inheritance tax, a tax paid by a recipient of a gift from an estate. Although there is no Florida estate tax, if the estate’s value is more than the exempt amount established by the U.S. Congress, the estate will owe federal estate tax.

The chart below lists the federal estate tax exemption amount per person authorized by Congress:

Year of Death

 

  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011 & 2012
  • 2013
Exempt Amount

 

  • $3.5 million
  • Estate tax repealed
  • $5 million
  • $5 million indexed for inflation

In 2011 and 2012, there was a 35 percent tax rate on estates with a value exceeding the $5 million exemption.  In 2013, the estate tax rate on assets valued above the $5 million exemption amount went up to 40 percent. With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the exemption amounts and estate tax brackets effective for 2013 are supposed to be permanent.

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