No one wants to think about his or
her mortality, but the unfortunate truth is that this is a fact of life
we all must face.
We help our clients plan for
management of their assets if they are incapacitated, and for
disposition of their assets in the event of death. We help them to
structure their affairs to avoid probate, eliminate or minimize estate
taxes, and protect their loved ones after they are gone.
Every person, regardless of how
wealthy he or she is, should have at least a basic set of estate
planning documents, including a Will, a Durable
Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney
(also known as Designation of Health Care Surrogate), and a Living
Will. Persons with substantial assets may also benefit
from a Living Trust.
Your Will serves
several very important functions. In your Will, you direct
how your individually owned assets will be distributed when you die.
You appoint the person or persons who will handle your affairs after
your death (your personal representative, also known as the executor in other states). You also nominate the
person or persons whom you want to have as guardians of your minor
children. If you die without a Will, Florida law and the probate
court will make these choices for you, and they may not be the best ones for
Note: having a Will does not avoid probate! This is a common misconception. Assets governed by a Will go through probate. The Will is just a set of written instructions to the personal representative and the probate court as to how you want your estate handled.
A Durable Power of Attorney
gives a person or persons that you appoint the ability to manage your
financial affairs on your behalf. Durable Powers of Attorney are
governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 709.
Legislation has been enacted affecting all Durable Powers of Attorney executed after September 30, 2011, which imposes new restrictions and execution requirements on these instruments. Powers of Attorney executed after this date using older forms that do not meet these new requirements may be ineffective on whole or part.
Durable Powers of Attorney executed before October 1, 2011, are generally unaffected by the new legislation and will remain effective.
A Health Care Power of Attorney
(also knowns as a "Health Care Surrogate Designation") gives a person or persons that you appoint the ability to make medical
decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. Health Care Powers
of Attorney are governed by Florida Statute Section 765.
A Living Will is a
legal instrument documenting your desire that heroic measures not be
taken to preserve your life in the event that death is unavoidable and
With a Living Trust,
you can avoid the delay, expense and publicity of the probate process,
minimize estate taxes, and establish trusts for your spouse and children
for tax planning purposes and for their protection. To learn
more about Living Trusts and other probate avoidance techniques, click here.
Concerned about estate taxes?
If you have substantial assets or life insurance, you should be! Read our special reports about Estate Taxes After the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2013 and the planning techniques that
you can use to disinherit the IRS.
Are you a new Florida resident?
Don't let your state of origin use the statement of domicile in your
existing Will as an excuse to claim that you never really
"left" and try to impose its own inheritance/estate tax and
back income taxes on your estate! Let us review and update your
estate planning documents to avoid potential state tax problems and make
sure that your documents will work properly under Florida law.
Confidential Estate Plan Client
Questionnaires. These Client Questionnaires can be printed
from your personal computer. These provide us with information
that we will need to do your estate planning. They also serve as useful
organizational tools for your personal records. While it is generally
most efficient to work for us to work from a completed questionnaire,
please feel free to leave blank any items on which you have questions or
feel uncomfortable answering and we can discuss them at the meeting.
Both are in Adobe PDF format with fillable fields that you can save on your computer with your answers.
Client Questionnaire - Married Couples
Client Questionnaire - Single Persons
After printing, you can return to
this page by closing the pop-up window or clicking on the
We offer a free one-hour initial estate planning consultation for prospective clients in our office.