Wills and other estate planning documents

As I take down my website, I thought the following information for general knowledge might be helpful.

1. A simple will: You can specify who will be your personal representative to handle your financial affairs during the probate process. The personal representative will deal with the attorney for the estate during this time. You can name the beneficiaries of your assets. If you do not have a will, and you have any relatives, the beneficiaries will be based on the order specified by Florida statute.

2. A will with trust provisions: You can provide for your minor children with a trust in a will. You can appoint a trustee to hold your assets in trust for the benefit of your children. You can specify the terms of the trust including the age that your children will receive the proceeds. If you do not have a will, or if you do not set up a trust, the court will appoint a guardian for your children. The assets will be turned over to your children when they reach the age of 18.

3. A durable power of attorney: You can appoint an individual to take care of your affairs if you become incapacitated. The power of attorney remains in force during your lifetime. You can provide the authority to sign on your bank accounts, sign contracts, prepare and file your tax returns, sell your home, and undertake other actions on your behalf. The durable power of attorney is designed to give someone the ability to take care of your affairs without the necessity of a very involved court proceeding to appoint a guardian.

4. A designation of health care surrogate: You can appoint a person to assist you with health care matters. This is a power of attorney for health care decisions. Your representative may need to communicate for you with your doctors on a short term basis, such as if you are in a car accident and temporarily cannot communicate. The authority may also be needed for a long term, such as due to Alzheimer’s disease. Your designee will have authority to process your insurance claims and admit you to a nursing home. This designation also helps avoid the need for a formal court guardianship.

5. A living will: This document provides that you do not want any extraordinary life saving methods to be used when death is imminent. You are directing the withholding or withdrawing of life prolonging measures.

6. A revocable trust (a”living trust”): You can place all of your assets into a trust to avoid probate. You remain as trustee so you do not surrender control over your assets. In the trust you would appoint a successor trustee. If you are no longer able to take care of your affairs, the successor trustee then can take control of your assets for your benefit. This should avoid a guardianship. The successor trustee will administer the trust upon your death. You can designate in the trust the beneficiaries. No probate would be necessary if all of the assets were properly placed in the name of the trust.

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