Estate Planning Services

What is Estate Planning? You hear people ask, “Do you have your estate plan in order?” But what does that mean?  At its most basic level, it means getting your affairs in order so that at the time of your passing, your assets (estate) will be managed by the person you select and your assets will be distributed to the people you want to receive them (planning).  In order to make sure that your estate planning documents are in order, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of what assets make up your estate and how those assets will pass to the individuals you have decided you want them to go to, that is your beneficiaries. There are several ways that your assets can be transferred to your beneficiaries and it is important to make sure that the various ways you may be using, coordinate with one another so that your overall plan will be carried out. This is what an estate planning attorney assists you with; the strategic coordination of all your assets to make sure that your vision of  whom you want your estate to pass to, will be protected and preserved.
Is there anything else involved in an estate plan?  While most people are concerned about the assets and how those will be transferred upon their passing, there are other situations that must be considered a part of getting your affairs in order.  These documents are valid and effective during you life time, so it is very important for you to have control over the appointment of who you desire to have this authority.  A discussion of these other documents is an essential component of an estate plan.

 

BENEFITS OF ESTATE PLANNING

  • Creating a will or a trust will ensure that your assets will go to the individuals you want them to go to, not how the state designates
  • Having a durable power of attorney can make sure that your bills continue to be paid if you are unavailable or incapacitated
  • Discussing the issues dealt with in a living will or health care surrogate designation will give your family members an opportunity to know what your wishes are with regard to these issues
  • Having the living will and health care surrogate designation will ensure that your wishes are met and will reduce the stress surrounding this time
  • Having a durable power of attorney and health care surrogate designation should allow you and your family members to avoid a guardianship proceeding on your behalf which will save time, stress and money
  • If a guardianship becomes necessary, the pre-need declaration tell the court who you want to serve in the roles of guardian over you and your assets

 

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

Your Last Will and Testament, is a document created in conformity with Florida Statutes that acts to appoint an individual to manage your estate and designates your plan of distribution of your assets after your death.

  • Will go through probate;
  • Must be executed with all the formalities required under Florida law;
  • May be changed or revoked during the life of the testator;
  • Is effective only after you have passed away;
  • Out of state wills – generally are valid in the state of Florida, but may have difficulty being probated due to Florida’s proof of will requirements

 

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to appoint an individual to act on your property holdings on your behalf.

  • Provides for the continued maintenance of your affairs either while you are “unavailable” or incapacitated
  • Can be revoked during your life and a new agent appointed;
  • Only effective while you are alive, authority terminates upon your death

 

LIVING WILL

A Living Will is a document that allows you to affirmatively state your desires regarding life prolonging procedures in the event you meet certain and specific criteria

  • Has restrictive application based on the specific criteria;
  • Are currently drafted to include more information regarding what you would deem a “life prolonging procedure” to avoid uncertainty;
  • Should be provided to your physician and family members;
  • Your wishes should be discussed with your family members
  • Can be revoked during your life

 

HEATH CARE SURROGATE DESIGNATION

A Health Care Surrogate Designation is a document that lets you appoint an individual to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make informed consent regarding health care

  • Is a much broader document than the living will;
  • May be effective and then you may recover and it will not be effective;
  • Allows you to appoint alternates to serve in the event the first designate is unavailable;
  • Currently drafted to make sure that your health care surrogate will be able to obtain all HIPAA protected medical records in order to allow your surrogate to make decisions in your best interest;
  • Your desires regarding your wishes should be discussed with your family members so they can most effectively advocate on your behalf
  • Can be revoked during your life

 

PRE-NEED GUARDIAN DECLARATION

A Pre-Need Guardian Declaration is a document that lets you appoint the individual you would want the court to appoint as the guardian of yourself and your assets in the event that a formal court-ordered declaration of incapacity is necessary.

  • Tells the court who you want to serve as your guardian;
  • Allows you to be in control of this nomination;
  • Allows you to appoint who will care for your personal needs as well as your property;
  • The court will be bound to follow this nomination so long as you had capacity to make this nomination at the time it was signed;
  • Generally has the ability to reduce contested guardianship matters because of the court will have to appoint the individual you nominate