An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Who Listens
If you do not have an estate plan in place — or if you have not reviewed your plan in several years — how your legacy will be distributed may not match your interests. In the absence of a plan, Florida laws take over to dictate who will get your assets. The laws do not take into account your desires, individual family dynamics, 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, we have guided families in all economic brackets and age groups through the process of creating a plan to protect assets for more than a decade while helping to minimize or eliminate the probate process. Because each family is unique, it is critical for you to work with a knowledgeable lawyer to craft the plan best suited to your needs. We meticulously work with each client to create the legal documents to comprehensively meet their 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 estate 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 possessions, 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 affairs, 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 life prolonging medical procedures. A Living Will informs your health care 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. 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 affairs. This document is most often used if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your financial matters on your own.
Read more about these five important documents on our blog.