Regardless of the size of your wealth, it is important to have an up to date Florida estate plan in place. A Florida estate plan can assist in the following areas: (i) avoiding having the state of Florida determine to whom your Florida estate will descend; (ii) Name a guardian for your children; (iii) Outline personal preferences and desires both during your lifetime and at death; (iv) Provide for heirs with special needs; and (v) When you are no longer capable of managing your affairs by planning for incapacity (by avoiding guardianship proceedings). Every Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton, Florida resident has an estate (home, personal property, investments, bank accounts, and retirement accounts) that needs to be protected.
A key aspect of estate planning in Manatee County Florida (Lakewood Ranch, River Club, University Park, Bradenton, Braden River, Palmetto, Ellenton, Parish, ..) is appointing a person whom you trust to act on your behalf in financial and medical matters when you are unable to act on your own behalf (due to illness or disability).
Even Lakewood Ranch Florida residents with modest wealth should consider the creation of a Florida Revocable Trust to achieve his or her ultimate disposition and goals. A Florida Revocable Trust can safeguard assets should you no longer be able to handle your affairs, provide for children from a previous marriage, hold money for minors (ensuring they can't spend it all the minute they reach majority or receive it); prevent funds from being eroded by spendthrift family members; and protect your assets should guardianship proceedings be commenced against you. A Florida trust can also protect assets from creditors and former spouses, whether yours or those of your heirs.
Our goal is to help you preserve your Manatee County Florida assets for the benefit of your heirs, at the lowest possible estate tax rate, and protect them from creditor claims. When beginning the Florida estate planning process there is no substitute for highly qualified and experienced Florida legal guidance. We take the time to get to know you and help you define your goals so that we can advise you of the Florida estate planning strategies best suited to achieve your goals. At a minimum, every Lakewood Ranch FL resident should have these primary estate planning documents:
Last Will & Testament: a legal document in which you express your wishes as to how your estate (assets, accounts, real estate, etc.) is to be distributed at your death, and nominates the individual(s) or entity to manage the estate until its final distribution.
Power of Attorney: a written document in which you give another individual (they can reside anywhere) the power to act in your place in managing your assets, pay bills, handle insurance claims, sell real estate, file a tax return, to make gifts, create revocable trusts, invest assets and do anything you can do with your assets personally. You may name one or more agents under a power of attorney, and direct that one may act alone without the other, or that they must act jointly. You can also point a successor agent to act in the event the first person(s) you’ve named cannot act. A “durable” power of attorney does not become inoperative upon your incapacity. However, upon your death it is no longer effective.
Health Care Surrogate Directive: a written instrument in which you appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your medical treatment in the event you are unable to give instructions at the time the decisions must be made (ex., you are in a coma). The creation of a Health Care Surrogate is a vital part of every estate plan and involves the following responsibilities on your behalf: 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 are Surrogate the appointee should become familiar with your specific values (religious and spiritual), medical history, end-of-life desires and legal documents.
Living Will: a document in which you state your wishes regarding medical treatment if you are unable to give instructions at the time the decisions for medical treatment need to be made. The living will can include instructions about the termination of life support and artificial nutrition and hydration (i.e., food & water intravenously).
Pre-Need Guardian Declaration: a document that specifically nominates the individual(s) to serve on your behalf if it is necessary to appoint a guardian for you. A Florida Court must consider the individual(s) nominated if he/she is capable of serving.
Without a power of attorney and health care surrogate in place your family will have to commence guardianship proceedings (petition the court to step in on your behalf) to make these decisions on your behalf. Guardianship proceedings is a very public process and makes the world aware that your family thinks you can’t take care of your own finances or medical decisions.
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Marc J. Soss, Attorney at Law | (941) 928-0310