Estate Planning Attorney in St. Petersburg, FL
Estate planning can be complicated, complex, and confusing. It is important to sit down with a professional that understands the nuances of proper estate planning. Each situation is unique, and therefore each estate plan is unique. However, everyone should have a Will, Health Care Surrogate, and Durable Power of Attorney. In addition, many people want a Living Will.
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a will. A will direct the distribution of your assets and belongings upon your death. It also nominates a person to serve as the Personal Representative of your estate. That person is responsible for distributing your assets according to your wishes. If you have minor children, a will is essential to ensure your children are cared for by the person or people that you would want in the event you pass away. If you do not have a will, the Florida Statutes control how your assets will be distributed, and this may not be what you wish.
Depending on your circumstances, a trust may be included in your Estate Plan. Revocable Trusts are a tool used to transfer assets to beneficiaries and avoid probate. There are many different types of trusts that may be appropriate depending on your situation.
Generally, a grantor creates a trust to hold and manage assets. This trust is managed by a trustee in accordance with the wishes of the grantor. If the trust is an inter vivos trust (also known as a living trust), the grantor will often be the initial trustee. These types of trusts provide flexibility and assistance in managing different types of assets. Grantors can use these trusts to support themselves and others during their lifetime, and after the grantor’s death, the trust assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the trust terms by the successor trustee nominated by the grantor.
While trust assets are not typically subject to probate proceedings, a successor trustee must still comply with the Florida Trust Code while administering the trust. The successor trustee must act for the benefit of the grantor and the beneficiaries. If the successor trustee does not appropriately administer the trust, the beneficiaries can challenge the trustee in the appropriate court.
Health Care Surrogates & Living Will
A healthcare surrogate allows you to designate a person or people to make your healthcare decisions in the event you are unable to do so on your own. Additionally, a healthcare surrogate can obtain your medical records. Health is very personal, and it is important to nominate a healthcare surrogate that you trust to potentially make these decisions on your behalf.
A living will express your end-of-life preferences. This includes the use of intravenous (IV) hydration, artificial nutrition, the use of a ventilator, or other life-prolonging interventions. If you do not want any or all of these procedures at the end of your life, it is important to prepare a living will in order to ensure your wishes are honored.
Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney nominates a person or people to manage your financial and contractual matters. This document is extremely powerful and does not wait for incapacity to be effective. Therefore, it is important to nominate people that you trust implicitly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Estate planning documents are complicated; therefore, I prefer to review the documents with you before executing the documents.
When a person passes away without a will in Florida, the Florida Statutes control how the person's assets are distributed to the deceased person's heirs.