“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Alan Lakein
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 on 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 your family!
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 known 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 imminent.
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 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 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 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.
After printing, you can return to this page by closing the pop-up window or clicking on the “back” button.
We offer a free one-hour initial estate planning consultation for prospective clients in our office, and will generally quote a flat fee at the end of the meeting.
Original estate planning documents should be kept in a secure location, such as a safe at home or a safe deposit box at a bank. This is especially critical for your Will. If you have your original Will in your possession and it cannot be found after you die, Florida law presumes that you must have revoked it by physically destroying it. While a lost Will can be “established” in court, this requires additional court proceedings, resulting in additional expenses to your estate. We offer free secure original document storage to clients who do not want to keep their original documents at home or at a bank.