Your estate plan is unique to you and your situation. Each of us has different goals and objectives that we wish to see successfully handled through our Florida estate plan. Knowing this, how do we start to plan? What questions do we need to ask? How do we begin to understand the decisions that will impact not only us, but our loved ones as well?
It is National Elder Law Month.
This means that May is one of the best times to take a step back and make time to think about your estate planning to ensure it can protect you in the event of incapacity. Your first priority may be to make sure your financial affairs are in order, this will ensure that your loved ones have the legal authority they need to follow your desires without court intervention. Or, you may want to start by ensuring you have named a person or people you trust to act for you in health care matters, should you become incapacitated.
We can help you address these questions as well as others that will emerge as we begin to plan your estate together.
To get started, let us share several estate planning documents that we can create with you to ensure you are protected in case of incapacity now in this National Elder Law Month and well into the future.
1. The Florida Durable Power of Attorney.
This planning tool allows the person you choose to have the legal authority to act as you would. For example, he or she can pay bills, file tax returns, apply for public benefits, and make investments as well as other financial decisions on your behalf. The “durable” aspect of the power of attorney means that the document will survive your incapacity and still be able to be used. This may be one of the most powerful estate planning tools that you can have in your arsenal.
2. The Last Will and Testament.
Through your will, you can decide who can inherit from you at the time of your death. This is an estate planning tool that allows you to choose your heirs and how you want your assets distributed through the probate process at your death. Without creating this document, and in the absence of other planning, you have died “intestate” or without a will, and your heirs will be determined under the Florida intestacy rules. Unfortunately, these rules may or may not reflect how you would have wished your assets to be left to your heirs.
3. Revocable Trust Agreement.
There are many benefits to creating a trust agreement in Florida. Similar to the power of attorney, in the event of your incapacity, your designated successor trustee can manage your trust assets held in trust. In contrast to a last will and testament, in almost all instances the assets held in trust will not need to go through the probate process. The trust agreement may be the right tool based on your unique situation that we can discuss together as we create your estate plan.
4. Health Care Advance Directive.
Of equal importance to each of the estate planning tools we have discussed so far is the health care advance directive. You want to ensure that you have named a surrogate who will have the authority to make health care decisions if you cannot make them yourself. This document may even outline your medical decisions about end-of-life care and, in the absence of a living will, can serve as a helpful guideline for those who may need to make your decisions.
As you think about the estate planning you want to create this National Elder Law Month, you can decide to have different people as your health care and financial decision makers. You always want to consider choosing someone who can both make sound decisions on your behalf and has your best interests at heart; they should also be willing to act for you. If you have an estate plan in place already, do not forget that it is important to update your plan every few years or after a major life event to make sure that everything still follows your wishes.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Should you need help with the process of creating the estate plan that works for you, do not wait to schedule a meeting with our office.