When should I plan my estate?  The short answer is now.  If you do not have a comprehensive estate plan, act now so that you an ensure your wishes are heard when you can no longer make them known.

Life events that trigger the need for an estate plan or the update of an existing plan, include the birth of a child, children turning the age of majority so that they can now be a decision maker, aging parents and the death of a spouse or a child.

When should I review my existing plan?  If you do not know whether you have written instructions for your disability, you have married or divorced, have persons named as decision makers who have since passed away or just are not sure whether your assets are addressed by your existing estate plan, then you should review your documents immediately and contact an estate planning attorney.

Do I need a will? If you die without a will, you die "intestate."  Intestate means that the Florida Statutes define who receives your property.  Executing a will ensures that your property goes to the people you want to have it.

What's the difference between a will and a living will?  A will takes effect after you die.  A will designates, among other things, who you want to receive your property after your die.  

A Living Will is a document called an "advance directive."  Its purpose is to express your wishes about medical decisions in the event that you cannot make those decisions for yourself.

What is the difference between a living will and a health care surrogate designation?  The living will expresses your wishes about your medical decisions.  A health care surrogate is the person you name to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them.  Although a living will and a health care surrogate can be drafted separately, it is my practice to combine those documents.

Do I really need an advance directive?  While there is no requirement that you have an advance directive, the best practice is to put your wishes in writing.  If you do not have an advance directive, then the Florida Statutes define who can make those decisions for you.  The person may or may not know what you want.  

My advance directive is from another state.  Will it be honored in Florida?  Yes, it should be honored in Florida.  However, you should consider reviewing your estate planning documents on a regular basis to ensure that the document still accomplishes your wishes.  

Can't I just use the internet to write a will, health care surrogate or durable power of attorney?  While there are certainly plenty of websites or programs that will allow you to prepare the documents yourself, Florida has statutes in place regarding these documents. Problems often arise from "DIY" documents that can result in your wishes not being honored.  It's better to consult competent legal help.

I have been told that my family member needs a guardianship.  What is a guardianship?  Guardianships are legal proceedings where the court determines whether someone is incapacitated, and if so, who should make medical and financial decisions for that person.  They take place before the Court.  If a person if found to be incapacitated, the Court will appoint a guardian to make medical and/or financial decisions for that person.  The guardian is then accountable to the Court until the guardianship ends.  

Isn't a lawyer expensive?  While it's true that lawyers can be expensive, legal fees are often more reasonable than one might expect.  The question is not "can I afford a lawyer?"  The question is "can I afford not to have a lawyer?"  We have seen expensive and drawn out legal battles due to poor or no planning.  

What do you charge for a consultation?  At Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., we believe that everyone should have access to a lawyer.  We offer a 30 minute complimentary consultation if you choose to retain our firm. After 30 minutes, time is billed at an hourly rate.  If you choose not to retain our firm, then we charge an hourly rate, which will be billed at the end of the consultation.

If you or a loved one need help, contact us today at 727-359-0607.