Top Florida Estate Planning Documents
When it comes to estate planning it can be hard to know where to start. The abundance of conflicting advice, information, and legalese can lead to overwhelm for many people, often causing them to not even try. However, breaking estate planning down into its most basic parts (documents) can help make approaching a larger estate plan much more manageable and easier to understand. Below, we’ll outline basic Florida estate planning documents that will have the biggest positive impact on your life and estate. This information is intended to be more general than comprehensive. However, if you would like personalized advice and feedback based on your specific circumstances and situation, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray to schedule a consultation today.
Most Important Estate Planning Documents
- Valid Will. A valid will may seem simple, but it is an essential staple of a solid estate plan. A will allows you to determine how your assets will be distributed after your death. Without a will, a court will lack guidance on who you want to receive your assets, and will rely on Florida’s intestate statutes. This will usually result in the assets being divided between your spouse and blood relatives in accordance with the statute. However, the probate fees will be higher because of the additional work required by the court, so not only will you not have a say in how your assets are divided, but there will be less left to distribute. Note that even if you have a will, it will still have to go through the probate process to determine its validity, settle debts, and disperse assets. This can be a long and expensive process. However, the more you have planned for and included in your will, the more streamlined the process will be.
- Revocable Trust. As noted above, wills must be processed through probate court, which can be costly both in terms of time and money. Another consequence is that your loved ones and dependents (who may have relied on you financially) cannot access the money until the probate process is complete. A revocable trust provides an alternative that bypasses probate. By placing assets into a trust you allow them to avoid probate by simply transferring control of the trust to a trustee or qualified loved one upon your death. This ensures that your loved ones will have no lapse in ability to access necessary assets. Note that any assets not placed in the trust will still need to be addressed in a will and go through probate.
- Financial Power of Attorney. A financial power of attorney is a document that you can create at any time, but that will not become effective until you are incapacitated. If such a time comes, your appointed power of attorney will be able to make financial decisions on your behalf (such as paying bills, listing your home for sale, etc.).
- Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will. Like a financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney only goes into effect once you are unable to make decisions for yourself. A living will (contrary to implications of the name) does not deal with assets, but instead outlines your preferences for your own medical care (such as if you would like to receive life support, if you do not wish to receive blood transfusions, etc.). Appointing a medical power of attorney allows you to ensure that even if you are in a position where you cannot make medical decisions for yourself, that someone you trust will make medical decisions in your best interest and in alignment with your beliefs and desires.
Talk to a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
If you want to ensure that your assets, interests, and desires are honored after your death, and that your loved ones will be taken care of, contact a West Palm Beach estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today and schedule a consultation.