Other Documents You Need To Create Along With Your Will

Other Estate Planning DocumentsIf you have a will or have been thinking of creating one, don’t forget to also have your attorney draft these other, equally important, documents in the state of Florida:

  • Health Care Surrogate. If you’re in a hospital too sick or unconscious to make treatment decisions for yourself (Should you have surgery? One type of medication or another?), whom do you want to be making them for you? This isn’t always as straightforward as it seems—while most people select their spouse or grown child, if your partner suffers from severe depression, say, or your kid lives across the country, you may do better selecting a friend or other relative. This should be a person who knows you well, so they can deduce what types of interventions you would desire if you were able to make these decisions.
  • Living Will. Doctors like to do all they can to save patients near death, which sometimes includes performing CPR or putting them on a ventilator. If you become terminally ill, however, you may prefer to be treated only for pain, and not to be aggressively or artificially kept alive. A living will—also called an advance directive—notifies your doctor of what you desire. (Note that this is different from a health care surrogate, because this covers only end-of-life decisions.) Doctors can use your living will to determine, for example, if they should put a “do not resuscitate” order in your chart.
  • Financial Power of Attorney. This person can act in your place financially—withdrawing your money, signing contracts binding you, and, depending on how the POA is drafted, even selling your home. Until a few years ago, you could create a “springing” POA, which took effect only if you became very ill. Changes in the law now mean that as soon as you sign the document, the person has power over your money and possessions. I advise clients to create this only if they are very elderly or sick, and have someone they trust completely. I’ve seen cases where a POA has been valuable in ensuring that an ill person’s bills are being paid or the home they can no longer live in is sold, but I’ve also seen unscrupulous POAs used to clean out bank accounts and pocket the money.  A frank discussion with your own family and then with your attorney will help determine if this is right for you.

Attorneys typically draft these documents in a package along with your will, to keep your costs down. Contact The Law Office of Gary Landau  at 954-979-6566 to discuss which documents are right for you.

Which Real Estate Deed Is Right For You?

Which Real Estate Deed Is Right For YouA deed may just be a piece of paper, but it is the lifeblood of every real estate transaction. The deed documents who owns the property, and therefore, who can sell it. Sellers and buyers sign a deed at the closing to legally transfer the home or land.

Deeds differ in what they promise a buyer. Here are the five most common deeds used in Florida, and what they mean:

  • General Warranty Deed. A general warranty deed provides the most assurances for the buyer, because the seller is making a legal promise that he is the owner. Any (rare) problems with title that may later arise, such as having a long-ago owner claim he never sold his share, remain the responsibility of the seller to fix. This is the most common type of deed in real estate transactions.
  • Special Warranty Deed. Here, the warranty is more limited—providing legal assurances only that the seller has not done anything to negatively impact the title, not that title is necessarily clean going back to the property’s beginning. Special warranty deeds are typically used by condominium or subdivision developers, in commercial real estate transactions, or when a person has inherited the property.
  • Quitclaim Deed. With a quitclaim deed the seller makes no representation that he/she actually owns the property they are conveying. These may be used to clear title problems, when a business transfers commercial property to a subsidiary, or when a seller wants to include a family member on the deed. I frequently do quit claim deeds for elderly owners who want to add their children to their deed or to sell their home to them outright.
  • Life Estate Deed. With a standard life estate deed, you name the person who will inherit your property, but you keep ownership of it during your lifetime. You don’t retain the right to sell or mortgage the property, and you could be liable to the beneficiary if you let a house fall into serious disrepair and therefore lower the value. One danger of adding someone to your deed is that any legal judgments on the newly added person now attaches as a lien on the home.
  • Lady Bird Deed. Also known as an enhanced life estate deed, you also keep the right to use the property during your lifetime even as it is transferred to someone else. Here, though, you can sell the property if you want. Because a home owned via a lady bird deed doesn’t go through probate, nor does it jeopardize Medicaid eligibility for the life estate holder, I sometimes use this deed when elderly clients want to pass their home to their children. As with other life estate deeds, though, legal judgments on the children can become liens on your home.

To learn more about real estate transactions and the deed that is best for your situation, contact The Law Offices of Gary Landau