Florida Estate Planning – Protect Your Legacy With Our Help
If you are here then it is because you reckon the importance of estate planning. From bringing a financial buffer to your family to minimizing tax expenses and avoiding probate, estate planning is what you need. With our strategic estate planning services, you will obtain the peace of mind and security you crave.
Since 2010, we have successfully helped hundreds of clients with their Florida estate planning needs, and we are ready to assist you too. Call us at (305) 921-0976 for a strategic consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
How Can We Serve Your Florida Estate Planning Needs?
Trusts, Wills, Power of Attorney (POA), designation of beneficiaries, and health care directives are amongst the most important documents of estate planning in Florida. It is indeed multi-faceted, and hence, we will put an experienced attorney at your disposal to handle each area, to craft the ideal estate plan. Let us talk about each element.
The last will and testament is the core of a well-structured estate plan. The purpose of this important document is to outline how the testator’s (person making the will) property must be disposed of upon death.
Florida law has strict requirements to ensure the validity of the document. As provided by Florida Statutes §732.502, “every will must be in writing.” The same statute requires that “the testator must sign the will at the end, or the testator’s name must be subscribed at the end of the will by some other person in the testator’s presence and by the testator’s direction.”
The document’s validity also requires the testator to sign in front of at least two witnesses in each other’s presence. Besides, the testator must have the capacity to create the will under state law and sign the document without any undue influence from a third party.
More than disposing of probate property, the last will is crucial to designate who will serve as the testator’s personal representative upon death. In Florida’s formal administration, the probate court will appoint a personal representative (or executor) to administer the estate subject to probate.
Typically, the court will name the person designated in the testator’s last will – as long as the person meets the legal requirements. If there is no designation specified in the will, the court will name someone based on statutory provisions.
When someone dies without a will in Florida, his/her estate is considered to be “intestate.” Then, a court must determine the disposal of the decedent’s assets according to the state’s intestacy laws, resulting in a stressful and time-consuming process.
Therefore, writing a last will is the first step to building a solid estate plan. We can assist you throughout the process of drafting your last will to avoid intestacy, designate a capable personal representative and ensure your estate is distributed the way you envisioned.
In essence, a trust is a legal arrangement in which the owner of an estate (trustor/grantor) transfers the title of property to a trustee for the benefit of one or multiple beneficiaries.
Under Florida law, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to the property held in the trust and its beneficiaries. Therefore, if the trustee fails to uphold his duties or incurs mismanagement, he/she may be liable for breach of fiduciary duty.
Trusts can have different forms and sizes to fit distinct purposes. Ultimately, a trust may help you to:
- Avoid probate court
- Avoid guardianship court (especially for minor children)
- Protect your assets upon death
- Safeguard your beneficiaries
- Provide for a loved one with special needs
While there are several types of trusts, it is possible to divide them into two main categories – revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts.
Also referred to as “living trusts,” revocable trusts are legal arrangements that permit you to change, amend, or revoke the trust agreement (the document that outlines the provisions governing the trust).
In Florida, the trustor may use a living trust to waive nominal ownership of assets while retaining control of those assets until death or incapacity. Hence, upon the trustor’s passing, the assets held in trust can be distributed directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust agreement – waiving the need for probate court.
On the other hand, irrevocable trusts are legal arrangements in which the provisions cannot be changed, amended, or revoked once the trustor signs the document into existence.
Thus, any assets titled to an irrevocable trust no longer remain under the trustor’s control, being distributed upon death to the beneficiaries named in the trust agreement. Generally, irrevocable trusts are strategically used by wealthy individuals to reduce taxable estate.
We can have your case assessed in detail to determine which type of trust will fit your needs best and ensure a stress-free distribution of assets upon death or incapacity.
Power of Attorney (POA)
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that permits you (the principal) to designate a trusted person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you are incapable to do so.
Typically, a POA is used in two types of situations – in case of a principal’s temporary or permanent disability or illness, or if the principal is not able to be present at a certain place to sign documents.
Depending on the level of authority conveyed by the principal, the agent may be authorized to determine how the principal’s property, finances, and investments should be handled. Therefore, it is crucial to choose someone trustworthy and that will not abuse the powers granted to him/her when acting on your behalf.
Contact us for an individualized consultation to assess whether a POA is an adequate legal tool for your case.
Designation of Beneficiaries
A beneficiary designation is a document that specifies a particular person (or multiple persons) you want to receive a particular asset upon your death. This estate planning tool establishes how that asset will be distributed and avoids the time and costs involved in probate.
Essentially, there are two types of beneficiary designations – pay-on-death and transfer-on-death.
A pay-on-death designation authorizes a financial entity to pay out a financial asset’s balance to the person designated by the owner of the account. On the other hand, a transfer-on-death designation transfers the ownership of an asset to a designated beneficiary.
It is possible to designate beneficiaries for multiple assets, such as bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, saving bonds, securities accounts, motor vehicles, and real property.
The designation of beneficiaries provides a valuable and flexible estate planning tool, as it is possible to designate virtually anyone as a beneficiary – family members, children, spouses, friends, charities, or even the estate itself. Still, certain designations have different implications.
For example, minors named as designated beneficiaries will need an appointed guardian to manage the assets inherited. Plus, if you choose to name your own estate as a designated beneficiary, the assets to be paid or transferred on death will be distributed according to the provisions outlined in the last will.
If you want to use beneficiary designations to protect your loved ones and ensure they will inherit their fair share of your estate, contact us immediately.
Health Care Directive (Designation of Surrogates)
A health care directive permits you to appoint a trusted person to act as your “surrogate” in case you become physically or mentally incapacitated, giving this person authority to handle your medical affairs and make medical decisions on your behalf.
In fact, it is possible to create a health care directive and designate a surrogate to handle your medical affairs even if you are not incapacitated.
For example, it may be useful in cases involving elderly caregivers, especially those taking care of a loved one suffering from a chronic illness that precludes them from managing their medical care on their own.
Other situations in which a health care directive may be helpful include loved ones going through a long recovery time after surgery (especially those constantly under influence of medications) or facing long-term health issues.
Additionally, it is possible to add a Living Will to your estate plan. While a health care directive includes a set of different documents, a living will is a document outlining your specific choices regarding medical preferences and end-of-life medical treatment.
In this context, a living will encompasses medical decisions such as:
- Comfort care (palliative care)
- Pain medication
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Feeding tubes
- Antibiotics or antiviral medications
- Breathing assistance
- Organ and tissue donations
Ideally, the best approach is to avoid being caught unprepared by unexpected situations – give us a call if you want to prepare a health care directive and ensure your loved ones’ peace of mind in case of incapacity.
Contact Us Today to Start Creating Your Ideal Estate Plan
Estate planning is vital for your future, and we are here to make it easy. We will handle each document the right way to bring you outstanding results. Call us at (305) 921-0976 or email us at [email protected] for a private consultation with an experienced attorney.