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Basic information about estate plans for Florida residents

Most Florida citizens know what a will is. They may also know some general information about a trust. However, they may not know that both of these documents fall under the main umbrella of estate planning. And while an estate plan can sometimes seem to be overly complex and confusing, the basic concept of it can be explained quite readily.

An estate plan is essentially the process by which an individual takes legal steps to ensure that his or her wishes for their wealth, property, health care and funeral arrangements are followed. It also lets the individual decide what surviving family members and friends should receive his or her assets after the individual dies. Developing a proper estate plan can help avoid legal difficulties once the individual passes away, because the estate documents, such as a will or a trust, spell out the individual's wishes.

Many people believe that an estate plan isn't necessary because they don't own multiple properties; however even without a lot of homes a person's estate can still be quite valuable. An estate consists of all wealth and property owned by an individual at the time of his or her death. This can include items such as insurance policies, bank accounts, stocks and bonds and personal property such as cars, art and jewelry.

An estate plan is important because it can take care of many situations that a family can find itself in after the death of a loved one. The estate plan can identify those individuals that the testator has left their assets to, and make sure that they receive the assets as soon as possible. It may also help reduce the amount of taxes that the survivors will have to pay. A properly executed estate plan may even be able to avoid the court-appointed probate process.

While the details of an estate plan can take some time to complete, that should not stop a Florida resident from speaking with an estate planning attorney. This legal professional may be able to help explain the types of estate documents that make up a solid estate plan.

Source: FindLaw, "What is estate planning?", Accessed Aug. 10, 2015

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