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High Net Worth Estate Planning


Certain characteristics of Florida estate planning are the same regardless of the net worth of the person. However, there are certain issues that tend to appear more often for those with higher net worth, and it is crucial that those who are in such a position be aware of the details that can show up in large estates. A failure to understand the potential pitfalls of estate planning for high net worth can lead to lost assets or to bequests not going to the heirs as intended.

High vs Low Net Worth Estates

Perhaps the most common difference between high and low net worth estates is the variety and type of assets contained therein. Those with more standard estates will, for example, not usually possess assets like cryptocurrency or stock portfolios. Antiques and real estate are other common assets that tend to be seen in estates of higher net worth; while Florida has an expansive homestead exemption that allows more couples to own their marital home, only higher net worth estates will have more real property among their holdings.

High net worth estates may also have different issues that might not appear for those in lower income brackets. One often seen is the existence of foreign assets, which may not be covered in a U.S. estate plan without careful drafting and full disclosure between the client’s local and foreign attorneys. Another issue is that the choice of executor (personal representative) may matter more for someone with more extensive assets – very often, people with high net worth opt for a corporate trustee or executor instead of choosing, say, someone from their family, for this reason.

How To Manage The Estate?

The primary concerns of someone with a high net worth are generally twofold: to avoid probate as much as possible, and to minimize one’s tax burden, so as to be able to pass on more of one’s estate to their chosen heirs. Florida does not have either a state estate tax or an inheritance tax, so many find the state an attractive place to settle and plan for the future because they only need to worry about federal taxes. The exemption for the federal gift and estate taxes, however, has been raised to $23.4 million for married couples and $11.7 million for single people – unless you have very high net worth, the odds are that such taxes will be minimal for you.

Trying to avoid probate is another way to minimize obligations, so that your assets can be passed down to your heirs as you wish. Often, the best way to do this for high net worth individuals is via a living trust – that is, a trust that can be modified during the lifespan of the settlor (the creator of the trust). Living trusts can have significant startup costs, but it can be very worth it in the end. A trust is created when a settlor transfers all their assets into the trust, but retains the rights to use or transfer them during their lifetime. Since the assets are no longer in the settlor’s name, there is little to nothing to put through probate.

Contact A Naples Estate Planning Attorney

If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience.  This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.


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