The best relatives are the ones who plan for their end-of-life needs, even if it will be years before they get there. Such planning spares those left behind the agony of figuring out what you might have wanted, and minimizes the chance that relatives will fight one another in court.
By working with a probate and estate attorney, you can create all the documents you need, from a basic will or a revocable trust to a healthcare proxy and living will. Having these documents will help your family know all of your wishes for when the time comes.
Estate planning lawyer Gary M. Landau has helped numerous clients draft these crucial documents. Read on for some of the common ones needed for end-of-life planning.
A Basic Will
A Last Will & Testament, where you designate which beneficiaries will inherit your property, money, and other valuables, is the staple of estate planning.
For anyone with minor children, a will is also where you designate your choice for a legal guardian should the worst happen while your children are underage. Married couples each need to have their own will.
In drafting a will, you need to name a personal representative (PR) who will work with a probate attorney to oversee the probate process after you pass.
Both the selection of the PR and the execution of the will must be done with the utmost of care, to ensure they strictly follow Florida law. A will can be discarded by the court if these laws are not followed.
Revocable Living Trusts
A living trust is a trust some people choose to create to remove their assets from themselves as individuals and put them into a separate entity, the trust. After their creation, the trust is funded with the person’s assets.
Revocable living trusts can be changed or canceled during the person’s lifetime.
Because a living trust is not entered into the court’s records, it is imperative that its creator never loses the original document creating the living trust. If the original cannot be found after the trustee’s death, there can be great difficulty passing the trust to the successor trustee.
If a person has a living trust, they should still create a valid will to disburse any assets that were not put into the trust.
Estate Planning and Your Beneficiaries
Once a person has created a valid will, they need to inform their personal representative where the original of that will is held. Many clients prefer to leave the original will in the office safe of the attorney who drafts the will, so it doesn’t get lost or damaged. They then keep a copy of the will, along with information about where the original can be found.
The purpose of a will is to ensure the orderly process of probate after a person’s death. This is where the court evaluates and approves of the will if it is valid, and oversees the process of asset sale and distribution.
There are four types of probate in Florida, depending on the type and value of estate assets.
- Formal Administration. If the estate is valued at more than $75,000, including non-homesteaded real estate, and the decedent passed away less than two years prior, the estate needs to enter formal administration, the most comprehensive type of probate.
- Summary Administration. Here the estate enters a more streamlined and faster probate process, which can be done if the estate value is $75,000 or less or if the decedent passed away over two years ago. Depending on the circumstance, it sometimes pays for someone to wait the two years so the estate can undergo this less expensive process.
- Ancillary Administration. Residents in other states who pass away owning property in Florida have a separate probate procedure for their Florida property, in addition to the primary probate proceeding in their home state.
- Disposition without Administration. Under rare circumstances, if someone passes away with few assets and no findable heirs, the state takes charge to use the assets to settle debts the deceased may owe.
Living Wills and Healthcare Proxies
When people are drafting a will or a living trust, the Law Office of Gary M. Landau generally recommends they create two other end-of-life documents as well.
One is a living will, also known as an advance directive. In this document, the person makes it clear whether they would or would not wish to remain on life support if they are ever in a place of having no prospect for recovering their health.
The second is a healthcare proxy, which designates the person who would be responsible for making healthcare decisions if you are unable to make them yourself.
Why Choose the Law OFFICE of GARY M. LANDAU for Your South Florida Estate Planning?
With more than 25 years of experience and countless satisfied clients, Gary M. Landau and his team are uniquely positioned to help you with your probate and real estate needs in South Florida. Whether you’re ready to probate a loved one’s estate or to write your own will, or if you are purchasing a home, have inherited a home, or want a closing agent to handle title insurance and all documents for your closing or refinancing, the LAW OFFICE of GARY M. LANDAU is ready to work with you.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction.