It is never too early to begin planning for the future. Many people put creating an estate plan on the back burner because they believe they are too young to need any planning, they feel uncomfortable discussing the issue, or they do not believe they have assets worth protecting. The reality is you are never too young to be affected by death or illness. For this reason it is important to create an estate plan as soon as possible to ensure that your family and loved ones are protected. Creating an estate plan is beneficial to ensure that your wishes regarding healthcare decisions, financial decisions, and the distribution of your assets following your death are honored. At The Florida Estate Planning Law Firm, our goal is to keep you and your family’s best interest protected in order to avoid stress in the future. When planning your estate, here are a few documents that will ensure your intentions are honored.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament, or simply, a “will”, is a legal document by which a person (the “Testator”), expresses their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed following their death. The testator names one or more persons as the Personal Representative to manage the Estate until its final distribution. A will is executed following certain formalities laid out in the Florida Statutes. A testator must be of sound mind at the time the will is executed, meaning he or she must have the requisite testamentary capacity to draft and execute a will and understand the extent of their assets. A will must go through a legal process, referred to as “Probate”, in order for the assets in the estate to be administered and distributed to heirs and beneficiaries.
A revocable trust is a document created by you to manage your assets during your lifetime and distribute the remaining assets after your death. The person who creates a trust is called the “grantor” or “settlor.” The person responsible for the management of the trust assets is the “trustee.” You can serve as trustee, or you may appoint another person, bank or trust company to serve as your trustee. A revocable trust can be amended, restated, and revoked while the settlor is still alive and has not been adjudicated incapacitated. However, a Revocable trust Becomes “irrevocable” upon the death of the Settlor. A revocable trust is usually used solely for estate planning purposes and provides very little protection from creditors.
Irrevocable Trusts generally cannot be modified or terminated once they have been established without intervention by the Court. As the Grantor, when you transfer your assets into the Irrevocable Trust, you give up your rights of ownership to the assets. The Trust becomes a written agreement between you and the Trustee—the person you name to manage the assets in the Trust. Irrevocable Trusts are generally used for Estate Tax Reduction, Asset Protection from Creditors, and Medicaid Planning, via Special Needs Trusts.
A Living Will is a document that spells out your preferences for
medical treatment, specifically in an end of life scenario. Certain
measures can be implemented to ensure that your wishes are followed by the treating physician.
Designation of healthcare Surrogate
A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate document authorizes a person of your choosing to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions on your own. Make sure to discuss your wishes for treatment with the person you have chosen as your healthcare surrogate so that they can assure your wishes for treatment are honored. Having a healthcare surrogate is especially beneficial if you are in a hospital and fall into a vegetative state or are otherwise unable to communicate your wishes.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document in which you appoint an
agent who is given the legal authority to manage your financial affairs during your life. An agent is granted a wide scope of authority to make decisions regarding a variety of financial decisions and even decisions regarding your property. A durable power of attorney is “durable” because it survives incapacity. For example, you may choose an agent under a durable power of attorney to continue to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated as an alternative to going through the long and expensive process of having a guardian appointed by the Court.