Estate Planning

For those of us who make our own decisions every day, it is hard to imagine what would happen if we became too sick or disabled to make some of life’s most important decisions. Don’t wait for a crisis to put your legal affairs in order. Typical Estate Planning Documents include a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate, Last Will & Testament, and Living Trust. A brief description of each document is provided below.

Durable Power of Attorney

When you sign a Durable Power of Attorney, you are giving legal authority to someone to act on your behalf. This provides a simple way for someone to manage your financial affairs. The use of the word “durable” coupled with language in the document which states it continues to be in effect if you are incapacitated, assures that your agent can act at any time.

Caution must be taken when signing a Durable Power of Attorney because the agent may act immediately upon signing the document. Under today’s statutes, even a copy can be used. This means that the Power of Attorney can be used even while you are still competent.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate
and Living Will

Designation of Health Care Surrogates and Living Wills are important legal documents and ease the decision making process for loved ones during what is sure to be a very stressful time for them. A Health Care Surrogate is a person that can make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions.

In some states, a person named to serve as a Health Care decision maker is referred to as a Health Care Power of Attorney. In Florida, the correct term is Health Care Surrogate.

A Living Will is a witnessed written or oral declaration stating your wishes regarding the use of any life-prolonging medical treatment.

Click Here for a quick reference on Health Care Decision Making

Last Will and Testament

It is important to create your estate plan early and to periodically review all of your documents as well as your assets. While it may be unpleasant at times to confront issues of sickness and death when you are still very much enjoying life, this is your chance to make choices about your future and the disposition of your property.

A Will is a valuable and flexible legal document that can carry out your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. It also dictates who you want to handle your affairs, after you die, and can designate a guardian for minor children as well.

Living Trust

A Living Trust is another valuable estate planning tool and provides a way for you to hold and manage your assets while you are living and competent. It also provides a mechanism for someone to step in and take over the management of your assets on your incapacity. In addition, a Living Trust states how you want your assets distributed at your death. If assets are titled properly, having a Living Trust can avoid the probate process entirely.

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