FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

What is a Will?

 

                A will is a recorded document that directs the distribution of your assets upon your death.

 

                A will:

 

a.       Establishes who will administer your estate ("The Personal Representative").

b.      Directs the distribution of personal household items, including your personality.

c.      Directs the distribution of major assets to individuals or trusts (a "Testamentary Trust" see below").

d.      Names guardians for your children.

 

Do I need a Will?

 

Everybody needs a will to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your desire. Without a will, all assets are transferred according to state statutes to relatives as has been predetermined by the legislature. This distribution may not necessarily be in accordance with your intent or desire.

 

Can I draft my own Will?

 

While technically you could draft your own will and sign it in the presence of two witnesses who must see you sign in their presence and in the presence of each other, it is not something we recommend. The laws of Florida are very intricate and we highly recommend a face to face consultation with a legal expert.

 

Is a Simple Will enough?

 

Every person’s circumstance is different; simple wills are substantially thorough for many small estates. However, because a simple will does not avoid probate, there may be additional options that can save your estate money and save your loved ones the inconvenience of probating your estate.

 

What is probate?

 

Probate is simply the official distribution of your assets after you die. The process can potentially cost an estate thousands of extra dollars in attorney services and legal fees, not to mention the extra stress on loved ones.

 

Are there ways to reduce the impact or eliminate probate of my estate?

 

Yes, there are ways to structure an estate so that part or all of it will avoid the probate process. There are a variety of estate planning vehicles that can be applied and below you will find a brief description of a few of the options available.

 

1.  Testamentary Trust

 

a.       Trust Created By Will

 

                Advantages:

a.       A trust is established by the terms of the will. The trust's directions are set forth for the distribution and other terms desired by the Testator/Testatrix. In the case of trusts the trust will maintain the assets until a beneficiary reaches a certain age, becomes deceased, divorces, or ceases to be alcohol or drug dependent.

b.      Satisfactory for moderate estates and protecting current cash flow. (Avoiding cost of establishing a trust)

c.       Creates a "vehicle" that survives creators' death(s).

d.      Costs more than a will, but less than a standard trust.

 

                Disadvantages:

                                Assets are still probated.

 

2.  Single Revocable Living Trust

 

                A document that is separate from a will.

 

                Advantages:

a.       Establishes an asset base that is not subject to probate.

b.      Creates a “living vehicle” that survives creators’ death(s).

c.       Establishes successor trustee charged with following trust’s distribution/retention

instructions.

d.      Directs creative distribution of assets in many unique fashions:

1.       Over time

2.       To specific beneficiaries

3.       For specific purposes

4.       For children

5.       For grandchildren

6.       For organizations

7.       For charity

8.       Imaginative and innovative personal design

e.      Changes can be made by amendments as circumstances change.

 

Disadvantages:

 

a.       Higher cost than a will or testamentary trust, but much less cost than probate.

 

3. Multi Trusts

 

The establishment of more than one trust can be used as a pre-death tax planning

device. While one trust will avoid the added expense of probate in the estate distribution process, two or more trusts can be used to maximize an estate by avoiding some or all of the estate (death) tax. There are many different types and styles of trusts that can be developed depending on your particular needs and desires. These are intricate documents that are drafted specifically for each individual(s) and therefore caution should be exercised when determining the professional to help you determine what is best for you.

 

Overview:

 

1.       Specifically useful for a larger estate for a husband and wife. The trusts will provide for the survivors' needs while maximizing the use of the federal exclusion allowance. It essentially will direct your total estate where you desire, and up to double the tax savings at death.

2.       . There are a wide variety of trusts that can be created, including irrevocable trusts for medicaid, income trusts, and education trusts for gifting, just to name a few.

3.       Stipulations are placed within trusts to make certain that assets are not used in ways you would not condone. It is a way to make certain that what you have passed on remains to benefit your loved ones in meaningful ways.

 

 

What is a Health Care Surrogate?

 

health care surrogate is an individual that you have granted the legal authority to authorize medical procedures, medications and care. A properly drafted health care surrogate will facilitate legal access to your private medical information so your loved ones can make an informed medical decision for your care.

 

Do I need to designate a Health Care Surrogate?

 

With constant advancements in medical technology and the ability to keep people alive through medical equipment, it has become increasingly necessary to have a person appointed to make decisions when you are physically unable to do so.

 

How do I appoint a Health Care Surrogate?

 

You may appoint any person you please as your Health Care Surrogate. This document should be drafted by an attorney and properly witnessed just as all of the other documents concerning your personal care and estate plan.

 

Is a Health Care Surrogate separate from a Living Will?

 

Yes, this is when doctors have not given up. The Health Care Surrogate will provide you with the certainty that the person you designate can receive the information necessary to make informed medical decisions, therefore it is necessary to have one in addition to a Living Will.

 

What is a Living Will?

 

                A living will serves two main purposes:

 

1.       It provides health care professionals with your wishes and desires for the final period of your life. It takes the decisions about extraordinary life-prolonging measures from family and professionals by explicitly expressing your wish and instructing the professionals on the extent such measures are to be taken.

2.        It maintains the final control over your life in the hands of people you know and trust, rather than strangers who may have your best interest at heart but who do not really know you or your desires.

                Do I need a Living Will?




Yes, again the Health Care Surrogate is a person to authorize medicine and operations when the doctors have not given up. The living will is your direction as to machines, food and water when the doctors have given up.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

 

A Durable Power of Attorney provides for a person you name to be able to act on your behalf. It provides a legal means for the person you name to be able to conduct the normal course of your financial activities. There are two types of durable powers of attorney: springing and immediate. You should seek counsel from a legal professional to determine what is best for you.

 

 

 



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