Estate Planning FAQs
What Estate Planning Documents do I need?
The future is uncertain; thus, it is important to protect yourself and your assets. Creating an estate plan that includes detailed instructions regarding your assets can provide you and your family peace of mind. In Florida, if you pass away without an estate plan, the laws of intestacy will govern your assets and direct who should receive them. This could lead to many disagreements between family members and disputes during probate, which is costly and time consuming. Probate in Florida can take anywhere between 3 months to 3 years!
To prevent probate, the following documents are extremely useful:
- A will
- Assignment of Tangible Personal Property
- Power of Attorney
- Living Will/Advanced Directives
- Designation of Health Care Surrogate
What is a Will?
A will is a document that details what you want to do with your assets in the event of your death. A will includes the name of the person who will dispose of your assets, the person who will take care of your minor children, and the way in which your assets will be distributed to your heirs.
A will is executed in order to avoid Florida’s laws of intestacy. By creating a will, you are in charge of designating who will inherit your assets, not the State of Florida!
What is a Trust?
A trust is a legal instrument that usually allows an individual to avoid probate! Instead of potentially having your assets tied up in probate court for months to years while your family members disagree on who is entitled to your assets, a trust allows you to appoint a trustee (a third party) to hold your assets on behalf of beneficiaries that you choose!
A revocable trust can help assets pass outside of probate while still allowing you to retain control of the assets during your lifetime. A revocable trust can be terminated and/or modified at any time! With a trust, upon your death, a trustee takes over and distributes your assets however you have instructed.
What is an Assignment of Tangible Personal Property?
An Assignment of Tangible Personal Property is an instrument that transfers all your tangible personal property. These are assets that can be touched or moved such as jewelry, artwork, furniture, etc. This instrument transfers your tangible personal property into your trust in order to ensure that it is not subject to probate proceedings and that your instructions are honored.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a document that authorizes a third party, that you choose, to handle different types of transactions. This agent can file your tax returns, buy and sell properties, and manage your bank accounts and investments. A general durable power of attorney may take effect immediately or can become effective only if you are incapacitated. A power of attorney is crucial because if you become incapacitated and don’t have a power of attorney, your family may have to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they can take care of any legal, financial, or business matters.
What is a Living Will/Advanced Directives?
A Living Will or Advanced Directives is a document that allows you to express your health care choices if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions. This instrument details your choices regarding end of life medical treatment, whether you want medications, extraordinary measures, and/or nutrition.
A living will only goes into effect when you are alive but are unable to communicate your wishes to your family members or your doctors. The moment you can communicate on your own, the living will has no authority.
What is a Designation of Health Care Surrogate?
A Designation of Heath Care Surrogate is a document that appoints a person of your choice who will be able to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person would only make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. Having a Health Care Surrogate certifies that any medical decisions made will be based on your own wants and requests.
At times, an individual will establish a Living Will and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate. When this is the case, the Living Will is in place to list the type of care that you want and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate is in place to make sure that there is someone there that knows you well enough to instruct medical professionals in situations not covered by a Living Will.