If estate planning is something you would rather not think about, try imagining the laws of the state of Florida dictating what happens to your property, who administers your estate, even who becomes the legal guardian of your children. An entity with no direct connection to your family or everything you’ve worked for could become the ultimate decision maker without the proper execution of a Last Will and Testament. This very real prospect can manifest in ways you would never have intended, leaving your final wishes unfulfilled and your family members possibly uncared for. Effective estate planning offers you the chance to prepare for these contingencies as well as the opportunity to cement your legacy.
Is Estate Planning Something I Can Do On My Own?
A common misconception is that estate planning is easy enough to do yourself using forms and templates gathered online. Using an attorney who knows the ins and outs of Florida law can help to nail down those edge cases you may not think about and ensure that your plan is watertight.
Let’s imagine a situation in which you are not survived by a spouse or any minor children and your home meets the legal definition of a homestead. Then, you are able to pass on your home as you see fit. However, if you are survived by your spouse and no minor children, you can only pass on your house to your spouse. Attempting to do otherwise is not allowed under the law. What if you are survived by your spouse and minor children? In this case, you can’t pass on your property through a will alone.
Furthermore, proper estate planning can include what may happen to you if you become unable to make decisions about your health. It’s a scary thought to imagine possible issues if you haven’t delegated authority to someone to make medical decisions for you, and even scarier to imagine that you have done so, but not in a legally binding way! In order to be certain that your wishes are carried out, every possible scenario should be accounted for and our attorneys specialize in this process.
What Do I Need to Make Sure Is Included?
In order to be adequate, an estate plan needs to be much more than just a Last Will and Testament. You’ll want to think through whether to use a Trust to avoid probate and if so, how to distribute assets from that Trust. For instance, do you have minor children or a beneficiary that may not be able to carefully manage finances? How would you like those funds dispersed over time? You may want to use that Trust to ensure a surviving spouse lives out his or her final years in comfort and without worry before having that money passed on to children. You may even want to contemplate how to care for a loved one with a substance abuse problem.
Additionally, solidifying a plan for yourself just before your passing is crucial. Estate planning also includes how your wishes are carried out in the event of incapacity. Make sure that your plan includes that:
- You dictate who has Durable Power of Attorney; the person who will manage your finances if you cannot.
- You make a Designation of Health Care Surrogate; someone to make health care decisions on your behalf.
- You make a Declaration of Living Will; a statement specifying your end-of-life medical decisions.
Why Partner with our Estate Planning Attorneys?
Our firm does much more than just tick boxes and fill out forms on your behalf. The careful consultation we provide will guarantee a thorough understanding of your wishes as we guide you through the legal forest of estate planning. Many people think they only need to declare what they wish to happen to their property in the event of their death, but as per the Florida constitution, there are particular restraints on how a property is devised based on who survives you. A devise that is deemed invalid will be passed on to the state to decide how that property is distributed. Our skilled attorneys will ensure any improper devises of homestead property are avoided and that your plan complies with Florida law.
Changes to the Law
Each of our estate planning attorneys is committed to maintaining the utmost expertise in the ever-changing landscape of state and tax laws governing end-of-life wishes. For example, did you know that in 2015, the law regarding the Designation of Health Care Surrogate was changed in Florida? Before that time, a designation only went into effect with a doctor’s affirmation that you are incapacitated. However, now the law allows your designation to be effective as soon as you add your signature. This is helpful because your designee can immediately make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not able to do so without having to get a declaration from a doctor first. Obviously, this can be quite important when time is of the essence!
Our Only Goal is to Help You
If all of this seems a bit dense and difficult to wrap your head around, that’s because it is! Our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys are here to help you craft a plan that meets your individual goals after carefully considering your needs. With our decades of experience helping clients achieve peace of mind, your comprehensive estate plan is in good hands.
Our firm is experienced in advising clients in estate planning matters including:
- Last Will and Testament drafting and execution
- Estate and gift tax planning
- Business succession planning
- Estate planning with life insurance policies and retirement plans/IRAs
- Estate planning for a non-U.S. Citizen or non-U.S. citizen spouse
- Charitable planning, including Charitable Remainder Trusts, Charitable Lead Trusts and Private Foundations
- Revocable and Irrevocable Trust drafting and execution
- Estate planning to avoid probate administration
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
- Durable Powers of Attorney and Designation of Preneed Guardians
- Healthcare advance directives (Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Declaration of Living Wills)
Hire an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney So You Can Live Your Life With Peace of Mind
Our clients have worked diligently their entire lives and built a reputation for being thoughtful, careful and considerate family members and citizens. Likewise, our estate planning attorneys will thoughtfully and carefully work through the process of solidifying your legacy so that you can rest easy in the certainty that your estate will be cared for as you see fit. At Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., our representation is personal, professional and personalized to your individual needs.