4 Basic Estate Planning Documents Everyone Should Have

Basic estate planning

Many people find it difficult to know where to begin with their Estate Planning documents.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Regardless of the size or complexity of your estate, there are four major planning documents that every individual should consider in order to ensure their wishes are carried out and to reduce the burden on loved ones. They encompass a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, a Health Care Surrogacy, and a Durable Power of Attorney.

Last Will and Testament

The most common of these documents, a Last Will and Testament, which allows a Testator (the person executing the Will) to name specific recipients of their property or assets, such as real estate, cash, jewelry, vehicles, business interests, and so on, upon their death.

What does it include?

Wills may include provisions establishing trusts for asset management or pet care, as well as the designation of legal guardians for minor children in Florida, in addition to designating assets. A Will in Florida also allows the Testator to appoint a trusted Executor or person to be in charge of carrying out his or her wishes. This way, the Testator can be confident that his or her wishes will be carried out exactly as intended by someone he or she can trust.

Although a Will is not legally required in Florida, if a person dies without one (intestate), state laws govern how that person’s property is distributed. As a result, failing to have a Will increases the likelihood of your wishes being ignored and assets being transferred to people you never intended to account for. The main disadvantage of using a Will is that it must be administered through the Probate Court, which adds cost and time.

Living Will

In contrast to a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will (also known as an Advance Directive) is a document in which you can clearly state your intentions for end-of-life medical care if you become unable to verbally express your wishes. As a result, despite the similarity in names, a Living Will has no effect after one’s death, as opposed to a Last Will and Testament, which becomes effective only upon the death of the individual. A Living Will, on the other hand, is effective from the moment it is signed and when a person is deemed unable to communicate his or her wishes regarding medical treatment, and it can be revoked at any time.

A Living Will is an important part of one’s estate planning documents because it informs families and medical professionals about a person’s preferences for life-prolonging procedures, treatment for terminal conditions, end-stage conditions, or persistent vegetative state conditions. It helps to avoid disagreements about how to proceed with end-of-life medical treatment.

Health Care Surrogacy

A Health Care Surrogate Designation, also known as an Advance Directive, appoints a trusted person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This document broadens the scope of a Living Will by not being limited to situations in which the signor may be dying. Given the authority granted by this document, it is prudent to specify which treatments you would prefer and which you would prefer to avoid so that the designee makes decisions that are consistent with your intent. Typically, a person’s spouse is designated as the surrogate, with a child or parent serving as the backup.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney, on the other hand, delegated authority to a trusted person to act as your agent for specific financial purposes, such as the ability to purchase or sell items on your behalf, sign contracts, file income taxes, and so on. A Power of Attorney essentially grants someone the authority to perform any legal act that you could perform yourself.

A Power of Attorney must be signed before a notary in Florida by the Maker and two witnesses. A Power of Attorney usually expires when the maker becomes incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney, on the other hand, remains in effect even after a person becomes incapacitated but expires upon that person’s death.

These four documents are an excellent starting point for any estate plan, assuring you that your specific intentions will be carried out upon your death or in the event you are unable to make medical or financial decisions for yourself. We serve the entire state of Florida so call us at (305) 962-5929 to schedule a consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.

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