Updated: Apr 13
Even knowing the benefits and importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan, data indicates that adults of all ages still have not taken the necessary first steps. According to the Caring.com 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study, just one out of three Americans have prepared essential estate planning documents. It is equally concerning that some are not aware of their estate planning options beyond a will: Almost 20% of survey respondents stated that they did not know what an advance directive is.
A crucial first step to protecting your future and legacy is consulting with a Florida estate planning attorney who will review your unique situation and guide you in finding the right fit. Another important task is understanding the five basic components of estate planning in Florida.
1. Your Last Will and Testament: The backbone of your estate plan is your will, in which you appoint an executor to handle your final affairs. In this document, you can include specific bequests to beneficiaries and instructions on how to distribute other assets. Your will gives you control over how your estate is managed and who receives your real estate and personal property.
2. Designation of Health Care Surrogate: This estate planning document aims to protect your health and well-being if you become incapacitated. In it, you appoint an agent who has the power to consent to medical treatment, diagnostic procedures, and surgery. The Designation allows you to provide guidelines for your agent in making health-related decisions.
3. Living Will: In Florida, the Designation of Health Care Surrogate is often accompanied by a Living Will; however, these documents have different functions. Your Living Will states your wishes regarding end-of-life and/or life-sustaining treatment if you have a terminal medical condition or are in a permanent vegetative state.
4. Durable Power of Attorney: Incapacity is also the focus of this document, in which you appoint someone to handle your real estate and personal property if you cannot. The power of attorney includes several sections in which you can express your intentions regarding management of your assets, including provisions on:
● Real estate transactions;
● Stocks and bonds;
● Banking and financial transactions;
● Operating a business in which you have an ownership interest;
● Government benefits.
5. Trusts: While not all individuals will be in the position to create a trust in their estate plan, you might want to consider one of the many structures available. A living trust takes effect during your lifetime and is often used as a way of avoiding probate, among many other benefits. You can also include a testamentary trust in your will to maintain control and protect certain beneficiaries.
Count on a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer to Advise You
There are many additional strategies to consider when reviewing your estate planning options, but these five components will cover many of the basics. For more information, please contact Francois Williams Legal LLC to schedule a consultation. You can reach our offices in Fort Lauderdale, FL by calling (954) 372-2021.