What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is wealth protection and management utilizing the appropriate umbrella so your assets are managed and distributed exactly to your wishes.
Who does Estate Planning Protect?
Proper Estate Planning protects everyone: you, your heirs, your pets, your family and loved ones. It enables your wishes to be carried out exactly, just as if you were still here. It also provides protection to your heirs, avoids family conflict and offers some tax protection.
What kind of documents are used in Estate Planning?
Having the proper documents in place allows you to direct the management of your assets both before and after your death.
The most common documents that are part of an Estate Plan are:
- Power of Attorney
- Living Will
Why do I need a Power of Attorney?
There are two types of a Power of Attorney document: general and durable.
Both documents allow a designated person to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapable or unavailable to do so. The general Power of Attorney gives a designated person specific rights to act on your behalf and a durable Power of Attorney extends beyond to include ability to make health care and nursing home decisions on your behalf. These documents must be prepared by an experienced attorney that will guide you through their powers and limitations.
What is a Will?
A last will and testament is a formal document expressing your wishes and desires concerning the disposition of your property after death.
Every will appoints a personal representative or executor to administer the estate and that person has the right to bring legal claims on your behalf and defend claims that could arise from third parties. Many people use a will to designate a guardian of minor children in the event there are no surviving biological relatives and if there are multiple biological relatives then it makes your wishes clear as to whom you prefer to raise your children.
Are there benefits to a Trust?
A revocable trust (or living trust) is very useful in estate planning and has advantages over a will because a trust offers privacy, tax benefits and allows faster and easier administration of your estate.
As the creator (grantor/trustmaker) of the trust, an individual has complete control over the trust during his lifetime and can add or withdraw assets from the trust as he pleases while alive. The trust document does not have to be recorded in public records or filed with any government agency.
What does a Living Will do?
A living will puts your wishes in writing in the event that you are hospitalized or unable to communicate.
It is formally recognized in the state of Florida and allows you to designate your wishes regarding mechanical support in the event of a terminal illness or accident with no hope of survival. It can be useful to family members in a dilemma as to what course of action to take during a moment of crisis and can ease the burden placed on family members.
What happens without an estate plan?
In Florida, if one dies without an estate plan, you have died “intestate” and Florida law will govern who will be entiteled to receive your assets.
Having a plan in place before and after death can preserve your assets and provide you with peace of mind that, in the event of illness and/or death, your affairs will be in order.
What the law says and what you want are often very different, that is why it is very important to have a will in place, drafted by an experienced attorney and in accordance with the state laws of Florida.
What if I have a plan in place already?
If you already have an estate plan and are looking to make changes, we can assist you in reviewing your current documents in order to come up with an appropriate plan that best fits your needs. Most changes can be made without the necessity of starting over.
For instance, if you desire to make a change to your will, this can be accomplished through the preparation of a short document called a codicil and for a trust through a document called an amendment.