Will: A will is the most common estate planning document in practice. It allows you to name who you want to you carry out your wishes for your property after your death. That Personal Representative will take care of your estate, ensuring property will pass as you want it to. The will can describe how you want your debts and taxes to be paid. It can allow you to name a guardian for your children. A will gives you sole discretion over how your assets will be distributed, and distributed smoothly.
Florida law has very specific requirements on the proper execution of a will. All too often, we see that a person at the end of his life writes his wishes down on a piece of paper without properly executing it. Instead of the property passing in accordance with his wishes, since it wasn’t executed properly, the property follows the back-up laws established by the state. This can cause property to pass to unintended heirs. An experienced attorney will ensure that the will is executed properly so that the court system will follow your wishes and not intervene.
Living Will: A living will allows you to declare in advance what type of medical care you do and do not want in the event that you become terminally ill. This can include what type of medicine you are willing to take, whether you want to be resuscitated, whether you wish to remain on life support, and whether you want extraordinary life-saving measures to be taken. It is a fail-safe way to ensure that your wishes are met if your doctors declare you have no chance of recovering. Attorneys recommend clients execute living wills because without a written declaration, it is hard for a family to make these decisions for you, and they may choose a different route from your wishes if you have not made it clear.
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate: This document enables you to choose a person to make all of your healthcare decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated. Your surrogate makes healthcare decisions in accordance with your guidelines or what he believes you would have decided if you were capable of doing so.
Declaration for Mental Health Treatment: This document describes your wishes for mental health treatment, such as treatment for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or severe depression. You may designate the medications you are willing and not willing to take, what type of treatment you are willing to undergo, and your choice of physician.
Declaration of Preneed Guardian: The Declaration of Pre-Need Guardian is designed to appoint a guardian of your choosing in the event that a guardianship proceeding is filed on your behalf. A person may file such a proceeding if you become incapacitated. This formal document is filed with the Clerk of the Court in your county, and will be produced to the court if the guardianship proceeding is filed. In a similar document, you may also elect the guardian for your minor children in the event that you become incapacitated.
HIPAA Release: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 grants you the right to privacy of protected health information. It prohibits medical personnel from releasing protected information for certain reasons. However, you also have the right to declare your information should be released to certain people of your choosing in the event that you become incapacitated. This document works in conjunction with all of the advanced directives regarding your healthcare to enable your surrogate and your doctors to make an informed decision about your treatment.
Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney allows a person of your choosing to act on your financial behalf in the event that you become incapacitated. It does end automatically at death, which is why it is important to also execute a will. The person you choose to hold the power can handle your ordinary financial decisions, but can also file your taxes, buy and sell insurance policies for you, such as life insurance, collect governmental benefits on your behalf, and manage your retirement accounts, among other decisions you may choose to allow. The durable power of attorney continues to operate as a matter of law even after you become incapacitated, while a standard power of attorney terminates at incapacitation.
Trust: A trust allows a third party, called a trustee, to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries of your choosing to distribute the assets outside of probate, which helps reduce probate costs and estate taxes. It allows you to control when your wealth may be distributed, unlike a will which distributes wealth upon death. Trusts are especially beneficial for people with minor children, to ensure their finances are handled properly. A trust can be designed to manage personal assets for those who have trouble managing them themselves. Trusts can be established to ensure financial security from creditors to prevent mismanagement of money and can even be designed to maximize stretchout of retirement accounts and significantly increase payout of the retirement account over time.