Essary Law Firm, PA
The ultimate goal of a comprehensive estate plan is to protect you, your family and your assets from unnecessary outside interference and waste. A good estate plan will ensure that you maintain control; control of yourself and control of your assets during your life, your incapacity and after your death. Estate planning is more than just writing a will and signing it, a comprehensive estate plan will be personalize and tailored to meet your needs and the needs of your loved ones. Every good estate plan starts with one thing...listening. I listen to you tell me about your family, your needs, your wants and your goals and tailor a plan that will to meet your needs. Some of the most common documents included in an estate plan include the following:
Last Will & Testament
A will serves as a written guide of your intentions. Through your will, you can provide for your loved ones in the way you believe best serves their individual needs. You decide who, what, when, and where. You can spread the payments out over a long period of time, or you can provide money for your grandchildren to use for college expenses or to purchase their first home. You can leave money to your church or a charity that is near to your heart.
Wills may be amended, modified or revoked at any time and for any reason. I recommend that you review your estate plan at any time you experience a change in your family circumstances (i.e. marriage, birth of a child, divorce, death in the family, etc) or every 4-5 years otherwise because changes in the law may lead to necessary changes in your estate plan.
Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a way for you to maintain your financial well-being through another individual. Your agent will be able to use the Power of Attorney at any time you are unable to perform financial tasks for yourself and can be used for both business and personal matters. It may also used for military families when one spouse is called to serve overseas or in families where one spouse is often away working for extended periods of time.
For most, the Durable Power of Attorney will allow you and your loved ones the time and expenses of Guardianship proceedings because there will be someone there to act on your behalf should it become necessary. And if there is a Guardianship proceeding filed, it may still be possible to avoid the court appointing a Guardian by proving the existence of the Power of Attorney and the ability for another individual to act on your behalf.
In Florida, all powers of attorney signed on or after October 1, 2011 must be made effective immediately when they are signed. For this reason, you should take great care in selecting your agent; of you don't trust the person now when you are well, you should not be trusting them when you are not well.
You may revoke a Durable Power of Attorney at any time and nor any reason. In addition, the Power of attorney will automatically terminate upon:
1. Your death,
2. You are judged by a court to be totally or partially incapacitated, unless the court determines that certain authority granted by the power of attorney is to be exercisable by the agent,
3. Upon the filing of a petition for dissolution or annulment of your marriage if your spouse is your agent.
Q. What is a Health Care Surrogate?
A. A Health Care Surrogate, also known as a Health Care Power of Attorney, is a written document that will allow anyone you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are not able to make them for yourself.
A Health Care Surrogate should be accompanied with a HIPAA Authorization. HIPAA is the federal law that protects the privacy of you personal medical information. You will grant your Health Care Agent access to all of your health care information and allowing your doctors to fully discuss you medical condition so your Agent can make the best decision possible.
Q. I have a Living Will, do I still need a Health Care Surrogate?
A. Yes, a Living Will only sets out what you wish to happens with end of life issues. A Health Care Surrogate allows someone to step in at any time you need, it doesn't have to be to make an end of life decision.
In Florida, you may may choose to discontinue artificial life support by mechanical means, including feeding and hydration tubes, when you have a terminal condition, an end-stage condition or you are in a persistent vegetative state. Florida's law allows physicians to rely on a written statement, your living will, of you intentions in such situations without fear of legal or professional ramifications.
A living will can be helpful to your loved ones may have a hard time deciding what they should do and what you would want them to do when a difficult decision must be made. Your written instructions will ease their burden in a very difficult situation.
Special Needs Trust
We know that as the parent of a special needs child, you have many special joys and special challenges. As is true of every parent, you want only the best for your children. But as the parent of a child with special needs, you have additional rewards and additional challenges. Designing your estate plan is no exception. We understand that you will want to care and provide for your child when you are gone. We understand also that you would never do anything intentionally that would put your child in jeopardy. However, failure to plan properly for your special needs child may very well put his or her public assistance in jeopardy and your child may not benefit from what you have left for them in the way you intend.
However, through the use of a special needs trust, you can provide for your child while ensuring that their public assistance remains intact. Through the use of this type of trust you can enhance your child's life.
You may establish a Special Needs Trust either through your Will, your Living Trust or under a separate agreement. The Special Needs Trust, also sometimes referred to as a Supplemental Needs Trust, is designed to supplement (not take the place of) public assistance.
The trust provides that the trust funds are to be used at the sole discretion of the Trustee for goods are services NOT provided by public assistance. The trust may not be amended or revoked by the your child and, when set up properly, the funds may not be accessed by creditor's of the child. The trustee will be able to use the funds to improve your child's quality of life by purchasing items not covered by public assistance like a television set or tickets to a baseball game (non-necessities that just make life more fun).
Parents, grandparents and other family members may fund a Special Needs Trust. And so long as the the trust is established with funds from someone other than the disabled child, there is no "payback" requirement on funds that remain in the trust when your child passes away. You can name any individual or charity you desire to receive any remaining funds after your child passes.
And every special needs plan needs to include a designation of guardian. You will be able to rest easy knowing that you have named a guardian that will care for and love your child as as closely as possible to the way you would.
Revocable Living Trust
A Revocable Living Trust is a document that creates a separate legal entity into which you can transfer ownership of your assets. A trust has three parties: the Grantor, the person transferring assets into the trust; the Trustee, the person who maintains and manages the property; and the Beneficiary, the person for whom the trust assets may be used. In the typical Revocable Living Trust, all three of the rolls are initially filled by the same person.
All property you transfer into a Revocable Living Trust will pass to your beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process. They also provide privacy (a trust is not made part of public records like a will), and they are quicker and easier administration. They are also a great way for people in second marriages to provide for each other first without jeopardizing their children's legacy.
If you are married, you are your spouse will typically establish one joint trust. Initially, you can serve as co-trustees and when one of you dies, the survivor can serve as the sole trustee. After you have both passed away, your Successor Trustee will take over and distribute your trust assets in accordance with your wishes.
Serving families in Escambia and Santa Rosa County.
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