Sometimes, people can be unsure about the difference between a will and a living will. In a nutshell, a last will and testament determines the distribution of a deceased person’s assets after his or her death. A living will specifies the medical care a person wishes to receive until the end of his or her life, particularly if the person can no longer make decisions regarding his or her care.
The legal team for Sherri Stinson, an estate planning and probate attorney from Palm Harbor, FL, explains what you should know about wills and living wills.
What Is a Living Will?
A typical living will in Florida is a document that allows someone to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Living wills generally are not effective until 1) you no longer have mental capacity and 2) two doctors conclude that you are terminally ill, have an end-stage condition, or are in a persistent vegetative state. One of the best-known cases in Florida is that of Terri Schiavo, who spent years in a persistent vegetative state while her husband fought to remove her feeding tube against her parents’ wishes. One of the lessons learned from that case is that if you do not have your wishes in writing, the court will determine what you would have wanted. In a worst-case scenario such as the Schiavo case, the guardianship estate potentially spends thousands of dollars trying to decipher your wishes.
Last Will and Testament
When you make a will, you state your wishes regarding your estate and its distribution among heirs after your passing.
Every will should appoint a personal representative (sometimes called an executor) and at least one, preferably two alternates. The personal representative can be a spouse, family member, probate lawyer, financial adviser, or any capable person you trust. However, beware that Florida has precise requirements about who can serve in this role. If someone is not a resident of Florida and not closely related to you, as defined by statute, then he or she cannot serve. The executor can also be one of the will’s beneficiaries.
The executor will take care of the probate process following the requirements of a Florida probate court in the decedent’s county of residence. These include formally notifying any known or potential creditors, making an inventory of the decedent’s estate, and paying off any debts, estate taxes, and legal fees. After the probate is complete, assets can pass to the beneficiaries specified in the decedent’s will.
If you have minor children or other dependents, it is vital to appoint a guardian you can trust and to include this information in your will. Many people also choose to make provisions for their pets.
Florida has particular requirements about things that must happen for a will to be valid. Once your will is ready, keep it in a safe spot and notify your chosen executor. Keep in mind that you may always make changes to a will, depending on financial or family circumstances.
One Thing Wills and Living Wills Have in Common
Despite their conceptual differences, wills and living wills do have one element in common: Both help ensure the fulfillment of your wishes and spare your loved ones time, energy, and difficult decisions during a sensitive time.
Life is unpredictable for people of any age and health condition. Nobody knows when they may pass away or lose physical and mental function. It is best to be ready for any scenario with a valid estate plan and living will for your peace of mind.
Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A.: Estate Planning, Simplified
Welcome to our law firm, where you are valued and heard—today and for the rest of your life. Our legal team at the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. has a vision of preserving families and giving them peace of mind by taking care of all estate planning aspects. We sweat the small stuff, so you don’t have to.
We are good stewards of your time and money. You don’t have to worry about anything when you come to the Law Offices of probate lawyer Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. We will hold your hand, take care of you, and work with you to compose a detailed estate plan that suits your personal goals and family situation.
To book a consultation, call us at the Law Offices Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. in Palm Harbor, FL, at 727-361-9302, or fill out our online form.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.