Estate planning is a process secure for the financial security of your loved ones (family members and friends), and, in many cases, charitable organizations of your choice. It also involves your assets (your property) and the various forms of ownership and title that those assets may take.
At Armenteros Law, P.A., we offer legal guidance in all aspects of estate planning to meet your immediate needs and the needs of your family. The following are some examples of estate planning documents our firm can provide:
Last Will and Testament
Power of Attorney
Living Will/Designation of Heath Care Surrogate
Last Will and Testament:
A Last Will and Testament is a document where a person (Testator/Testatrix) sets out their wishes regarding the distribution of their property upon their death. The document may specify that the decedent’s property goes to their children or spouse for instance, or that a portion of their estate may be left to charity. Depending on the types of assets that are left behind and the wishes of the Testator, a Will can be fairly straight forward, or quite complicated. Either way, it is extremely important to have this document in place prior to the time of death.
The Last Will and Testament is an important document, but in the context of Estate Planning, it should also be looked at as one element. It be that because of the Testator’s unique situation they should also consider having a Trust, or perhaps an Advanced Healthcare Directive.
A trust is an agreement that provides for the distribution of your assets in a secure and financially efficient manner. A trust can be revocable, meaning that you can continue to control and manage your assets during your lifetime or it can be irrevocable, meaning that you will essentially give up complete control of you assets to your named trustee, who will manage your assets for you.
A Living Trust, if properly written and funded, can also be used to direct what should happen to your property, not only in the event of your death, but also in the event of your disability. Upon disability, you can plan for who will take care of you and your Trust assets so that you can avoid having to set up a Guardianship. Upon death, a Living Trust and all the assets within it avoid probate, a legal proceeding which is costly, time consuming and a matter of public record. However, a Living Trust is only effective if it is properly funded (all assets are titled in the name of the Trust or beneficiary designations point to the Trust).
Power of Attorney
Powers of Attorney are important documents that can grant another individual considerable amount of power of your health care and/or financial affairs. As such it is important to ensure that these documents are drafted correctly to ensure that your rights are protected. Often these documents are part of a comprehensive estate plan package which could include a Will and Trust, among other documents.
Living Will/Designation of Health Care Surrogate
The Living Will is essentially a written expression of your wishes relating to the use of extraordinary measures to extend your life if you are terminally ill. A living will is governed by Florida Statutes and must be prepared and executed a very specific and particular way. Many companies selling generic or “boiler plate” living will forms are not offering documents specific to Florida and when the time comes, these documents may not necessarily express your wishes. This document will direct your physician as to whether or not to cease life-sustaining procedures which would serve only to prolong your death if you are terminally ill. It gives guidelines for your physician to follow, as well as clarifies your intent as to life-sustaining procedures.
A Designation of Health Care Surrogate designates a health care representative in the event you are incapable of making health care decisions or providing informed consent for medical treatment.