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Estate Planning

A comprehensive estate plan can be the greatest gift you can leave behind for loved ones.  It ensures that your assets are efficiently transferred to the loved ones of your​ choosing and free those you leave behind, the stress, confusion, time and expense associated with probate. 

Choose an Experienced Law Firm

Comprehensive estate planning goes way beyond the mere drafting of documents. Beware of lawyers in the document drafting business. Estate planning is not a "one-size fits all" proposition. Your lawyer should take the time to discuss and understand your objectives and propose different strategies for meeting them. It requires an experienced lawyer, who understands and can explain all the nuances in putting together a comprehensive plan. Having drafted over 500 estate plans, in "all shapes and sizes", we can help navigate you through the process and provide you peace of mind.

Please feel free to call us to discuss your estate planning needs.

So, which documents are right for you?

  • Last Will and Testament?
  • Living Trust?
  • Durable Power of Attorney?
  • Health Care Surrogate Designation?
  • Living Will?
  • Designation of Preneed Guardian?
  • Designation of Preneed Guardian for Minors?

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament allows you to name those individuals, to whom you want your assets to pass upon your death.  If you die without a Last Will and Testament, the state of Florida has, by statute, essentially written one for you.  Under this scenario however, you lose the ability to decide, and your assets may end up in the hands of people you may have otherwise desired they not.

A common misconception about Last Wills is, that by having one, there is no need to probate your assets.  This is not the case.  Having a Last Will does not avoid probate, but rather helps facilitate the process.  The good news is, there are other planning tools you can use to avoid probate.  With the guidance of an experienced lawyer, you can implement these tools, saving your loved ones the time and expense of probate.

Living Trust

Though Living Trusts can be a valuable tool in an estate plan, it is not necessarily the right tool for everyone.  With guidance from an experienced lawyer, you can make an educated decision whether it is the right tool for you.

Now, though a living trust can help avoid the time and expense of a probate, there are some caveats.  Once the Living Trust is established, it is imperative that it be properly funded.  Where applicable, assets need to be retitled to the Living Trust.  Additionally, where applicable, the Living Trust need be named as beneficiary.  If either of these two steps are skipped, your loved ones may be facing a probate.

It should also be noted that there are often costs associated with administering a Living Trust, and its assets after you die.  And these expenses can exceed the costs otherwise associated with probate.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to tend to your business affairs in the event you cannot.  One of its primary advantages is that it can avoid the intrusion of the court system into your personal affairs, avoiding the cost and stigma associated with the appointment of a legal guardian. 

In 2011, the Florida Legislature amended the Durable Powers of Attorney statute, requiring more specificity in the powers being given.  If your current Durable Power of Attorney was signed prior to 2011, it is still valid.  However, it might be a good idea to meet with an experienced lawyer, who can explain the changes to the law, and allow you to decide whether amending your current Durable Power of Attorney is advisable. 

One other note regarding Durable Powers of Attorney.  Upon your death and the document becomes invalid.

Health Care Surrogate Designation

Like a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Surrogate Designation allows you to appoint someone to handle affairs for you in the event you cannot.  In this case, the person appointed will handle your medical affairs, including treatment options and the "business" of health care. This person will speak on your behalf in the event you cannot speak for yourself.

Living Will

A Living Will allows you to inform your loved one and health care providers of your wish, under certain circumstances, to forego life prolonging procedures and pass with dignity. Within the document, you designate someone who is NOT charged with making that decision for you, but rather affirming that wish.  Unlike a Durable Power of Attorney or a Health Care Surrogate Designation, you speak from the document rather than someone speaking for you.

Declaration of Preneed Guardian

Though you may have a valid Durable Power of Attorney, which effectively circumvents legal guardianship proceedings, there are circumstances under which the Durable Power of Attorney becomes invalid.  In that rare event, the law allows you to designate someone to act as your guardian.  During any guardianship proceeding, a court will give great deference to that designated person. 

Declaration of Preneed Guardian for Minors

Similar to a Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian, a Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian for Minors allows parents to designate guardians of their children in the event parents are unable to carry out the responsibilities of parenting.  Whether by death or medical or legal incapacity, a Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian can provide parents, the assurance that their children will be tended to by the person or people of their choosing.  Like the Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian , a court will give great deference to those people designated by the parents.









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