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Many Southwest Florida residents (Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Lee, Desoto and Collier counties) delay creating a Florida estate plan (Last Will & Testament, Revocable Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Living Will & Pre-Need Guardian) to avoid thinking about their own mortality or incapacity. My goal is to educate my clients so that they understand the benefits of having an up-to-date Florida estate plan and walk them through the planning process.
WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING & WHY YOU NEED IT:
Florida estate planning is the legal process whereby a Florida resident develops a plan and prepares documents to conserve, protect, and distribute his or her accumulated Florida estate assets, after their death, for the benefit of loved ones (family and friends) and charities. When preparing your Florida estate plan it is important to consider the impact of state and federal tax laws and potential estate tax ramifications. Your Florida estate plan should include planning for the use of your assets for your future care if you become unable to manage your own affairs during your lifetime.
Factors you should consider when preparing your Florida estate plan: (i) who will inherit your assets upon death; (ii) who will make your health care decisions when you are unable to; (iii) planning for a minor, disabled or special needs child; and/or (iv) avoidance of the public legal process associated with probate and guardianship proceedings.
Creating a basic Florida estate plan does not need be intimidating; in fact, it could provide you with a great sense of security because you will know that (i) your family will be secure; (ii) the individuals you have selected will be handling your affairs should you become disabled and upon your death; and (iii) your assets will be distributed, after your death, as you wish. I have over twenty-five (25) years of extensive experience developing comprehensive estate plans for a wide range of clients, including high-net-worth individuals, business owners, professionals, and blended, and young families. In addition to preparing traditional estate planning documents (Wills and Revocable Trusts) I have extensive experience developing complex estate plans for wealthy individuals and families that minimize transfer taxes while achieving the client’s overall estate planning goals and protecting assets for future generations.
FLORIDA ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS
LAST WILL & TESTAMENT: A legally binding Florida document that addresses how your assets (located in Florida and every other state) will be distributed at your death and names the individual ("Personal Representative") who will handle the Florida probate administration of your estate.
REVOCABLE TRUST: A legal Florida agreement into which you place your assets, during your lifetime, for the benefit of yourself, your spouse, and heirs. The revocable trust will hold title to your assets (located in Florida and any other state) and give control to the trustee. As the grantor, during your lifetime you will not lose any control over the assets titled into the name of your Florida revocable trust. Upon your incapacity control of the Florida revocable trust will be transferred to the successor trustee. A Florida Revocable Trust does not provide (i) creditor protection to the grantor, or (ii) income tax savings benefits.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: Written instructions in which you designate another individual (the "attorney-in-fact” or “agent") to make financial decisions on your behalf. The document is typically utilized in the event that you: (i) are rendered incapable of making your own financial decisions; (ii) are unavailable; or (iii) require assistance.
HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: Written instructions that set forth what health care decisions should be taken on your behalf in the event you are unable to make them for yourself (due to illness or incapacity). The document appoints the individual ("health care surrogate") to make all necessary medical decisions in the event you are unable to express your preferences. Your surrogates responsibilities will include: approving medical treatments, medications, diagnostic tests; requesting and approving the release of medical records; determining where medical treatment will be provided (hospital, rehab facility, nursing home, Hospice, etc.); obtaining a second medical opinion; handling insurance carriers and claims; and most importantly communicating with family members. To be an effective Health Care Surrogate the appointee should become familiar with your specific values (religious and spiritual), medical history, end-of-life desires and legal documents. This information will make for an easier transition when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
LIVING WILL: Written instructions which allow you to determine how you want to be treated in certain medical conditions (be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured or provided food and water via intravenous devices). The document may also appoint an individual to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Marc J. Soss, Esquire
This website has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask me to send you free written information about my qualifications and experience.