An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Who Listens
If you do not have an estate plan in place — or if you have not had periodic reviews — how your legacy will be distributed may not match your interests. In the absence of an estate plan, Florida estate laws take over to dictate who will get your assets. This legal process does not take into account your desires, individual family dynamics, complicated situations, or even the well-being of your loved ones in directing how your property will be distributed.
At The Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A., in Melbourne, Florida, provides legal advice to families in all economic brackets and age groups. Our estate attorneys have guided families through the estate planning process for more than a decade, creating plans to protect assets while helping to minimize or eliminate probate. Because each family’s financial situation is unique, it is critical for you to work with an experienced attorney to craft the plan best suited to your needs and who will be with you through the entire process. We meticulously work with each client to create the estate planning documents that comprehensively meet your individual goals. Learn more about Estate Planning at one of our Estate Planning Workshops.
The Five Most Important Estate Planning Documents
1. Revocable Living Trust
A Revocable Living Trust is a written document that is created during your lifetime for the protection, management, and distribution of assets should you become incapacitated, challenged by the symptoms of aging, or pass away. By stating your beneficiary designations, a Revocable Living Trust indicates how you, the trust owner, want your transfer of assets to occur upon your death, and it can be amended or revoked during your lifetime.
2. Last Will and Testament
The Last Will and Testament is a written document that indicates how your property (i.e. real estate, personal property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.) will be distributed at the time of your death. It may also include instructions about the care of and appointment of a guardian for minor children.
One difference between a Revocable Living Trust and a Last Will and Testament is that a Last Will and Testament goes into effect only when you die, while a Revocable Living Trust is effective both during your lifetime and after your death. If you’re unable to manage your own legal matters, a Last Will and Testament doesn’t give anyone else the right to manage them for you.
3. Living Will & Designation of Health Care Surrogate
A Living Will is a legal document that makes known your wishes regarding health care directives and life-prolonging medical procedures. A Living Will informs your healthcare providers and family of your desires for medical treatment in the event you become incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate is the document that gives another person the right to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so yourself. It can include special instructions about treatments that you do or do not want.
4. Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian
A Declaration Naming Preneed Guardian is used to designate, in advance, the person you want to manage your affairs and act as your guardian should you become mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs, property, or health care decisions. By signing this document, you decide who should handle your affairs rather than having the court step in and decide who should do so for you.
5. Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives the person you choose, i.e., your agent, the power to act in your place regarding your financial and legal affairs. This document is most often used if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your financial matters on your own.