Wills, Trusts & Estates

Anyone who owns property such as a home, car, bank account, investments, business interests, retirement plan account, life insurance, collectibles, etc., needs an estate plan.  An estate plan allows you to direct h ow, to whom, and in what manner your property will be distributed after your death, as well as determine how you will live during your advanced years if you are unable to care for yourself.

With no estate plan, your property could be distributed according to your state’s intestacy laws without regard to family needs or your desires.  If you do nothing to plan for your incapacity, the State of Florida will make those decisions for you.  Wouldn’t you rather decide for yourself how you will live and who will take care of you and your affairs, and direct how and to whom your property will be distributed after your death?  In order to accomplish these goals, you should consider the following:

Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that allows you to direct how your estate will be administered and distributed.  If you die with a will (testate), then the designations which you set forth in the document will control who receives your property.  A will also designates the person responsible for managing your estate and carrying out your wishes.  This person is generally referred to as the Personal Representative.  If you die with out a will (intestate), your property will pass according to the laws of the State of Florida.

Living Trust

A Living Trust is often referred to as a Revocable Trust.  The primary reason for establishing a Trust is to avoid probate.  Probate is the court-supervised process of proving a Will and distributing the assets of the deceased according to that Will.  The probate process becomes public record, can be lengthy, time consuming and expensive.  Unlike a Will, a Living Trust is the best way to avoid probate and protect your privacy.  Generally, the assets held in your Trust at your death will escape probate and remain a private concern.

Living Will

A Living Will is a declaration which allows you to state, in advance, your wishes regarding the use of life-prolonging medical care if you become terminally ill and unable to communicate.  Its purpose is to express your desire not to receive extraordinary medical treatment.  You determine the kind of medical care you want under the circumstances you describe.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a document by which one person gives legal authority to another to act on their behalf or handle their affairs.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate

A Health Care Surrogate (HCS) is essentially a medical power of attorney.  It designates someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.