Dying in Florida

Fri, Jan 25, 2013

Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate

We are all on a road toward death. What should those planning to die in Florida consider? Here is a handy list:

Wills

Make sure you create a will. Dying without a will in Florida is called dying intestate and it is messy. The state takes over the estate and usually passes along property to your closest relative. This is a real problem if there is more than one appropriate relative, if you have children, or if you really do not want someone to have your estate.

Probate

Florida has four types of probate: summary administration, formal administration, ancillary administration, and disposition without administration. (More about each can be found here.) That being said, you want to reduce probate as much as possible to have as much money left for your heirs as possible. Two common ways to do this are by leaving specific beneficiaries for retirement accounts/ insurance policies or by using trusts. We wrote about this on our blog in a post entitled, “Avoiding Probate.”

Trusts

Use trusts to plan for your heirs. Leaving specific instructions for how money should be divided is a great way to prevent some strife. Trusts are also important for those who care for disabled heirs. In addition, trusts are passed on after death through specific arrangements, thus avoiding probate.

Life Insurance

If you are leaving loved ones behind, make sure you try to get as much life insurance as you need to support them once you die. Consider term life insurance over whole life insurance, but a life insurance professional can assist in determining what type of coverage is best for your specific situation.

Living Wills

Living wills spell out your specific wishes during health crises. It covers areas such as resuscitation and heroic measures. Some are more specific than others are, but all help family members and doctors know your intent and wishes.

Funeral Expenses

Planning for funeral expenses can be a good use of your money, especially if you have specific requests and/or do not want to pass this burden along to your family. You can prepay some or most of your funeral expenses. Finding a reputable funeral home or crematorium is key, though. Make sure you share these plans with your family as well, so they are not finding out when it is too late and they have already made other arrangements.

And this list just covers things to consider when dying from natural causes. Consider carrying accidental death insurance if you can find affordable coverage, especially if chances are high you might be injured through your professional or leisure pursuits. Many insurance providers have this type of insurance coverage and can counsel on your need or eligibility for it.

And what about wrongful death? Wrongful death is when you are killed by someone else’s negligence or intentional misconduct. While you cannot prepare for something like this, everyone should be aware that there are options if a loved one is taken from you by someone else’s negligence. We have a blog post that is a good place to learn more about it.

With its large elderly population, one might assume that Florida has a high death rate. Surprisingly, it does not have the highest in the nation. (Here are some death statistics from 2009 for the state of Florida.) However, dying is not as simple as it might seem, especially when loved ones are left behind. Florida has specific laws and other things to consider when it comes to death. Christopher D. Smith is a Florida elder law, estate planning, probate, guardianship, and real estate attorney. He has a lot to say about dying in Florida on his website and blog.

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