Estate planning is all about the disposition of your estate after you die, as well as similar issues such as the care of your children after you die, and your own care if you become incapacitated (unable to make decisions for yourself or unable to communicate your decisions). Keep in mind that estate planning is not the same as elder law– elder law is about the preservation of your assets while you are still alive.
A solid Florida estate plan generally includes the following components:
A last will and testament;
A power of attorney (POA);
A living trust;
Medical directives; and
Not all of these components are right for everyone — some people don’t need a living trust, for example. Other estate plans need additional components, such as a spendthrift trust for an irresponsible relative, for example. No two estate plans are exactly the same, because no two people are subject to exactly these same circumstances and concerns. At Lorenzo Law, we will help you create an estate plan that is just as individual as you are.
Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament is the document that instructs a probate court on how you want your assets distributed. After you die, your last will and testament will be administered by your estate’s personal representative. In almost all cases, Florida law requires that the estate itself be represented by a probate lawyer.
Florida law limits your ability to distribute your assets through a will. A surviving spouse’s elective share, for example, is 30 percent, and it applies regardless of the contents of your will. You cannot “cut off” your spouse’s elective share, and the 30 percent rule applies regardless of whether the marriage last 30 days or 30 years.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (POA) is a legal document in which you appoint an agent (your “attorney”, although this person does not have to be a lawyer), to make financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. “Durable” means the POA remains in effect even after you become incapacitated.
A living trust is a trust in which you place assets into the trust, name trust beneficiaries, and appoint a trustee to hold legal title to the property subject to the instructions in the trust document. If you set it up right, you can use the assets while you are alive — you can place your home in trust and still live there, for example. The main advantage of a living trust is that its assets can pass to your beneficiaries as soon as you die, without going through probate first.
Although executing a durable power of attorney is a useful form of end-of-life planning, other options exist as well, and you can use more than one at the same time. These options include:
A healthcare proxy, which is something similar to a durable POA for medical decisions;
A living will, in which you issue instructions to your healthcare provider concerning whether or not to withdraw life support in certain situations;
Medical instructions, which allow you to issue instructions to your health care provider on other medical decisions, such as course of treatment, that might arise if you become incapacitated.
You need to make sure that the beneficiaries to your living trust, life insurance, IRA, 401(k) plan, etc. remain current after circumstances change (someone dies, for example). If you don’t keep your beneficiaries as well as the entirety of your estate plan up to date, it is likely to be a judge who decides where your assets go, based n the contents of state or federal law that have nothing to do with your particular situation or concerns. .
Why do I need an estate planning lawyer to prepare my estate documents for me?
Writing an effective last will and testament requires a deep understanding of the many legal issuesinvolved. Following are four reasons why you shouldn’t try to draft a will yourself:
Estate planning law is complex — and the more complex your estate is, the more complex its application to your estate plan..
Florida applies certain state-specific rules on how a last will and testament must be drafted. Failure to comply with these rules could result in the invalidation of your will in probate court.
Using an online prefabricated will or trust document, or drafting one yourself, might save you a little money in the short run, but it could cost you (or your loved ones) big in the long run.
A properly prepared estate plan is one of the best defenses against insomnia, because of the peace of mind it gives you.
The Bottom Line
Just as experience in pediatrics doesn’t make a doctor an expert in cardiology, experience in, say, family law, doesn’t make a lawyer an expert in estate planning. Estate planning is primarily the process of providing legal adviceand drafting documents. Each of these activities requires a nuanced understanding if the issues involved, and it is not a good idea to try to “go it alone” unless you are an experienced estate lawyer..
Some of Our Practice Areas
Lorenzo Law handles cases in the following areas, among others:
Estate planning and probate
Probate and guardianship
Probate procedures and probate litigation
Creating or reviewing estate planning documents such as wills and trust documents
Take the First Step by Contacting Us Today
The last thing you need is a “jack of all trades” law firmthat handles anything from criminal defense to M&A transactions. By contrast, we devote a great deal of our practice to estate planning and similar matters. The estate planning attorneysat Lorenzo Lawwill take advantage of their years of experiencein estate planning to provide you with the legal servicesyou need to create a winning estate plan.
We provide legal services throughout Florida including those in the following localities: Miami-Dade County including Aventura, Miami, Coral Gables, Doral, Fontainebleau, Hialeah, Homestead, Kendall, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach, Miami Lakes, North Miami, Tamiami, Westchester, and North Miami Beach; Broward County including Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Cooper City, Coral Springs, Hallandale Beach, Oakland Park, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, and Weston; and Palm Beach County including West Palm Beach.
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