Since you tied the knot, so much has changed in your life. You’ve finally found your soul mate, and you’re looking forward to all that lies ahead. One of the most important things you can do now as a newlywed is to meet with a Palm Harbor estate planning attorney to discuss creating your estate plan if you don’t currently have one. You can take the necessary steps to protect your future with the assistance of an attorney. If you’ve been searching for an “estate planning attorney near me,” look no further. The estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., is here to assist you and your new spouse secure your future today.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan consists of legal documents that outline your intentions and expectations in two scenarios:
- What happens to your assets when you die?
- What happens if you are unable to care for yourself or your estate?
Your estate consists of everything you own. Cash, investments, real estate, business interests, and other personal property are all included. When you die, all of your assets must be distributed. An estate plan specifies who receives what. Equally important, an estate plan specifies what you want loved ones and caregivers to do if you become incapacitated and unable to care for yourself. This includes health care, long-term care, who will manage your finances, and, if necessary, who will care for your children.
In Florida, some important estate planning documents include the following:
- a last will and testament, in which you designate who receives your assets when you pass away, appoint an executor, and designate a guardian for any minor children;
- a durable power of attorney for finances, in which you appoint someone to manage your finances in the event of your incapacity or death;
- a living will, in which you express your wishes for end-of-life medical care; and
- a designation of health care surrogate, in which you appoint someone to ensure your health care wishes are honored.
Additionally, you may wish to consider taking steps now to avoid probate following your death. Probate is a court proceeding that empowers your executor to pay your debts and taxes and distribute your assets to your beneficiaries. The process can be costly and time-consuming, and many people would rather avoid it altogether to save their families money and hassle. Probate can be avoided relatively easily through the use of a living trust or other techniques—as long as you act during your lifetime. Following your death, your family will be unable to avoid probate of your estate. Discuss this and other advanced directives with your estate planning attorney when creating your estate planning documents. For more information about the importance of establishing an estate plan, read our recent article here.
Last Will and Testament
A will, also known as a “last will and testament,” can assist you in protecting your family and assets. Among other things, a will can be used to:
- entrust your property to individuals or organizations;
- designate a personal guardian to look after your minor children:
- designate a trusted person to manage any property you leave to minor children; and
- designate a personal representative to ensure that your wishes are followed.
If you die without a will in Florida, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s “intestacy” laws. The intestacy law in Florida distributes your assets to your closest relatives, starting with your spouse and children. If you don’t have a spouse or children, your property will be passed down to your grandchildren or parents. Siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your spouse’s relatives are among the increasingly distant relatives on this list. The state will take your property if the court exhausts this list and finds that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney can help you plan for medical emergencies and declines in mental functioning, as well as ensure your financial well-being. Having this document in place reduces confusion and uncertainty when family members must make difficult medical decisions. For example, a durable power of attorney allows the named individual to make decisions about artificial life support. It enables the designated individual to determine whether the patient should remain connected to a respirator or not (often indicated in a living will, which must be honored).
A durable power of attorney appoints someone to act on your behalf in a broad range of legal and business matters and continues to be effective even if you become disabled. The document is also referred to as a durable financial power of attorney. The durable power of attorney may take effect immediately or upon your incapacitation.
If you become incapacitated and do not have a durable power of attorney, your family may have to petition the court to have you declared incompetent before they can manage your finances on your behalf. Therefore, it is prudent to have one in place—just in case.
Your estate planning attorney can assist you in drafting durable powers of attorney for each of you. You may wish to appoint your new spouse as your durable power of attorney to manage your affairs in the event of your incapacitation. If not, you may choose another person in whom you have confidence.
Living Will and Appointing a Health Care Surrogate
A living will is a legally binding document that expresses an individual’s end-of-life wishes, such as whether the individual wishes to be kept alive artificially. While a living will is not technically a will, states recognize its authority. Florida’s living will law expressly states that an individual suffering from a terminal illness and no longer capable of making such rational decisions may opt out of any “death-delaying procedure” if they expressed this preference in a living will.
When you’re newly married, the last thing on your mind is thinking about what happens if you or your spouse become incapacitated or disabled. However, even if you are still young, something could happen. We have witnessed far too many tragic events involving young people, such as car accidents or falls on bike trails. This would be devastating for your spouse, but you can mitigate the impact with the proper advanced directives in place.
Both you and your spouse should create a living will indicating your wishes for care if you are in a coma, have a terminal illness such as cancer, or have an end-stage condition such as renal failure. Additionally, you should appoint a healthcare surrogate to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. You’re likely to want to name your spouse first, but what happens if both of you are involved in a car accident and are unable to make decisions for themselves? These are the types of issues we can assist you with.
Without these documents, you or your spouse must petition the court for the authority to make significant decisions. Family members may attempt to obstruct the petition, resulting in a legal battle.
Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. – Estate Planning, Simplified
Are you looking for an “estate planning attorney near me”? At the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., we believe in simplified estate planning and helping clients leave a legacy while making a plan for every possible situation. Here, you will feel valued and heard today and for the rest of your life.
Take the first step to secure your future today. To book a consultation, call us at the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. in Palm Harbor, Florida, 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 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 based on 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.
Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A.
522 Alt 19 #1,
Palm Harbor, FL 34683