Many Sarasota (Sarasota, Siesta Key, Bird Key, Lido, Venice, Osprey & Nokomis) and Manatee (Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Palmetto, Ellenton, Anna Maria, River Wilderness, Cortez & Holmes Beach) County Florida residents delay creating a Florida estate plan (Last Will & Testament, Revocable Trust, Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Living Will & Pre-Need Guardian) to avoid thinking about their own mortality or incapacity. My goal is to educate my clients so that they understand the benefits of having an up-to-date Florida estate plan and walk them through the planning process.
Creating a basic Florida estate plan does not need to be intimidating; in fact, it could provide you with a great sense of security because you will know that (i) your family will be secure; (ii) the individuals you have selected will be handling your affairs should you become disabled and upon your death; and (iii) your assets will be distributed, after your death, as you wish. Estate planning is for everyone. Individuals who own real property, have liquid assets, own insurance, or support loved ones who are dependent on their assistance should have an estate plan in place, regardless of value or size of the estate, marital status, or age. An estate plan is critical for protecting the interests and future income needs of a spouse and/or minor children, and can cover a range of directives for the appointment of guardians of people and property.
I have over four (4) decades of extensive experience developing comprehensive estate plans for a wide range of clients, including high-net-worth individuals, business owners, professionals, and blended and young families. In addition to preparing traditional estate planning documents (Wills, Revocable Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogates and Living Wills), I have extensive experience developing complex estate plans for wealthy individuals and families that minimize transfer taxes while achieving the client’s overall estate planning goals and protecting assets for future generations.
Once an estate plan is created, it is important to perform reviews of your plan regularly. Changes to your family, tax law, your health, and the economy should be reflected in your estate plan. It is important to review your beneficiary designations on your retirement assets, life insurance, and financial accounts annually or whenever changes in your life or family occur.
LAST WILL & TESTAMENT: A legally binding Florida document that addresses how your assets (located in Florida and every other state) will be distributed at your death and names the individual ("Personal Representative") who will handle the Florida probate administration of your estate. If you pass away without a Will, Florida will apply its “laws of intestacy” to determine which individuals will receive which funds or assets.
REVOCABLE TRUST: A legal Florida agreement into which you place your assets, during your lifetime, for the benefit of yourself, your spouse, and heirs. The revocable trust will hold title to your assets (located in Florida and any other state) and give control to the trustee. As the grantor, during your lifetime, you will not lose any control over the assets titled into the name of your Florida revocable trust. Upon your incapacity, control of the Florida revocable trust will be transferred to the successor trustee. A Florida Revocable Trust does not provide (i) creditor protection to the grantor, or (ii) income tax savings benefits.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: Written instructions in which you designate another individual (the "attorney-in-fact” or “agent") to make financial decisions on your behalf. The document is typically utilized in the event that you: (i) are rendered incapable of making your own financial decisions; (ii) are unavailable; or (iii) require assistance.
HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: Written instructions that set forth what health care decisions should be taken on your behalf in the event you are unable to make them for yourself (due to illness or incapacity). The document appoints the individual ("health care surrogate") to make all necessary medical decisions in the event you are unable to express your preferences. Your surrogates responsibilities will include: approving medical treatments, medications, diagnostic tests; requesting and approving the release of medical records; determining where medical treatment will be provided (hospital, rehab facility, nursing home, Hospice, etc.); obtaining a second medical opinion; handling insurance carriers and claims, and most importantly communicating with family members. To be an effective Health Care Surrogate, the appointee should become familiar with your specific values (religious and spiritual), medical history, end-of-life desires, and legal documents. This information will make for an easier transition when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
LIVING WILL: Written instructions that allow you to determine how you want to be treated in certain medical conditions (be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured or provided food and water via intravenous devices). The document may also appoint an individual to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Florida estate planning is the legal process whereby a Florida resident develops a plan and prepares documents to conserve, protect, and distribute his or her accumulated Florida estate assets, after their death, for the benefit of loved ones (family and friends) and charities. When preparing your Florida estate plan, it is important to consider the impact of state and federal tax laws and potential estate tax ramifications. Your Florida estate plan should include planning for the use of your assets for your future care if you become unable to manage your own affairs during your lifetime.
Factors you should consider when preparing your Florida estate plan:
This website has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask me to send you free written information about my qualifications and experience.