When a person makes the decision to put an estate plan into place, they often find themselves confronted with a number of tough questions right at the outset. Who will administer my affairs and distribute my assets when I am no longer able to do it myself? Will the family business continue to provide for my loved ones after I am gone? Will a portion of my estate have to be used to pay taxes and if so how much?
Ourednik Law Offices staff has the answer to these and many other tough questions. Estate planning is one of the most procrastinated legal issues in America today.
Many people would rather do almost anything rather than sit down and establish their estate plan, even though they know they recognize the value of having one in place. At Ourednik Law Offices, we understand the sensitive nature of estate planning and we want to make sure that you feel comfortable and confident with the plan we establish for you.
That’s why we work tirelessly to ensure that all of your questions are answered, your goals are met, and your family is guided through every stage of your estate plan. A well-formed estate plan is one of the greatest gifts we can give our loved ones, so contact Ourednik Law Offices today to see how we can help you get yours started.
What Should I Be Planning?
The term estate planning can encompass a number of different legal instruments and concepts. Generally, estate planning can be broken into two distinct categories: (1) estate planning for physical and/or mental incapacity; and (2) estate planning for death.
When planning for physical or mental incapacity, there are several important legal documents which are considered necessary to properly create a basic estate plan:
- Advance Medical Directives – The legal document necessary to delegate healthcare decisions is known as “advance medical directives.” In Florida these are often referred to as a designation of health care surrogate. Advance medical directives allow for the nomination of an agent who has the legal authority to take care of personal health needs and make medical decisions if an individual is temporarily or permanently unable to do so for themselves.
- Living Will – Often combined into a single document with the designation of healthcare surrogate, the living will is a legal document that an individual uses to legally establish his or her wishes regarding life prolonging medical treatments. Living wills were made famous by the case of Terry Schiavo, a Florida woman who was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state following an incident of cardiac arrest and subsequently spent 15 years on artificial life support. The lack of a living will in the Schiavo case led to the long and costly legal battle that followed and serves to highlight the importance of this planning measure.
- Durable Power of Attorney – The legal document necessary to delegate financial decisions is known as a durable power of attorney. The durable power of attorney allows an individual to choose someone to manage their assets on their behalf if they are unable to do so for themselves. In Florida, the only allowable Power of Attorney is “immediate,” and the agent chosen will have the immediate ability to take care of the individual’s property and will remain in power even if the individual is later determined to be mentally incapacitated. Prior to a 2011 change in the law, it was possible for a power of attorney to be drafted as deployment contingent or “springing.” In this circumstance, the agent chosen would not be able to manage the individual’s assets until after they have been determined to be mentally incompetent. Powers that were drafted as deployment contingent before the statutory change remain in effect under the new law.
Besides planning for physical or mental incapacity, a good estate plan should also plan for death through the use of the following legal instruments:
- Last Will and Testament – A will contains a written set of instructions to the decedent’s representatives and beneficiaries as to how they want their estate to be handled after death. Many find that the biggest drawback of using a will to dictate the distribution of their assets is that the property must go through the probate process before the beneficiaries will be able to take legal control of it. In Florida, the assistance of an attorney and the consent of a judge is required for successful probate administration and these requirements often lead to higher cost and delay. The use of a revocable living trust can help to avoid this undesirable complication.
- Revocable Living Trust – A revocable living trust can be used to plan for both mental disability and death in one document. This type of trust allows the individual, as trustee, to control their property while still alive and mentally competent. If the individual later becomes mentally disabled, a successor trustee may manage their finances until such time as they are restored to competency. If the individual dies, then they may designate the person of their choice to distribute their assets to their beneficiaries. Another benefit of using a Revocable Living Trust as part of an estate plan is that the beneficiaries will be able to gain quick and easy access to the estate assets after death since all property held in the trust will avoid court-supervised probate.
Where Do I Begin?
The instruments described above are merely a small sampling of the options available to the knowledgeable estate planning attorney. This is why it is so important to speak with an attorney before establishing any estate plan. Other issues, such as taxes, creditor’s claims, and the limitations of Florida homestead must also be considered. Failure to do so could cause serious problems for estate administration and may prevent friends and loved ones from receiving desperately needed bequests. Unfortunately, websites that sell discount legal documents are unwilling to take responsibility for ensuring that their clients are made fully aware of everything they need to know before implementing their estate plan, ultimately leading to problems and confusion.
Ourednik Law Offices’ staff has the experience and resources to help you put an estate plan into place that you and your family can be comfortable with now and in the future. Our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that all of your questions are answered, your goals are met, and your family is guided through every stage of your estate plan. We constantly strive for excellent client communication and satisfaction. Our estate planning packages are constructed with value in mind and most of the legal work we perform for our clients is done at a set fee. This means that you don’t pay for each phone call or email and a simple follow-up is never followed by a bill.
Visit our estate planning blog to read more about the issues and legal developments that affect estate planning. Have a question? Email our firm to get an answer directly from one of our attorneys.
A comprehensive estate plan is one of the greatest gifts that you can give your loved ones, so contact Ourednik Law Offices to see how we can help you get yours started today.