Who Needs an Estate Plan?
If you have children, or any assets such as a home, car, retirement or savings, preparing an estate plan is essential. Every person who owns property and wishes to direct what happens to it upon his/her death should have an estate plan, regardless of the value of the property. If you have children, have been divorced, remarried, are a senior, are in a same-sex relationship or have a large estate, there may be greater consequences if you do not have a plan in place. In addition to providing for the smooth and orderly distribution of your assets upon your death, an estate plan can also provide for the care of your children and dependents, leave instructions for your end-of-life care, and name someone who can make decisions on your behalf in the event of your absence, incapacity or illness without the need for expensive and timely court intervention.
If you die without a will, known as dying intestate, the Florida inheritance statutes determine who gets your property, not you. The inheritance statutes contain a rigid formula and makes no exception for those in unusual need. The court will choose a personal representative, who may be someone you would not have wanted in that position, to manage your estate. Additionally the time and costs associated with the administration of your estate will generally be higher and subject to greater court supervision
Preparing Your Estate Plan
Drafting an estate plan involves decisions that require professional judgment which can be obtained only by years of training, experience and study. Our attorneys can help you avoid pitfalls and advise the course best suited for each individual situation. Even smaller estates can have complexities only foreseeable by the experienced attorney working closely with the client.
At Ossi, Withers & Harrison, P.A. we don't believe in "cookie cutter" solutions. Each client has unique needs and desires and we will work to customize the estate plan that works for you.
While your needs may vary, here are examples of documents our attorneys will typically prepare as part of a comprehensive estate plan:
Will: A written direction controlling the disposition of property at death. This document will address how you want your assets divided, who should be in charge of handling your estate, who will care for your children, and other instructions for the handling of your affairs after death.
Durable Power Of Attorney: This document appoints someone to assist in handling a person’s financial affairs. This is particularly helpful to have in order to make sure that if a person becomes incapacitated the expense of a guardianship proceeding can be avoided. This assists with paying the bills and protecting the assets in the event of an absence, illness or incapacity.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate: Allows you to appoint a person(s) who can speak with your doctor/health care provider and make medical decisions on your behalf (if you cannot do so).
Living Will: Allows you to specify your end-of-life care decisions with directions as to the use of life-prolonging procedures in the event of a terminal illness or persistent vegetative state and the appointment of an enforcer who can instruct the doctors/health care facility as to your wishes. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will are often referred to collectively as "Advanced Directives."
Revocable Trust: Sometimes used in addition to a Will to provide additional flexibility, privacy, and probate avoidance. Allows you to specify who will inherit your property after you pass away and allows you to fund your trust to avoid going through probate after you pass away. Can be used to provide beneficiaries with creditor or estate tax protection.
Whether you are creating your first estate plan or updating a prior plan we are happy to help. Contact our office at 352.692.4888 to set up a free estate planning consultation.