A bit of planning now can save countless headaches later. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that nobody seems to want to plan for the inevitable. However, making a complete estate plan is necessary to avoid unintended results and unnecessary expenses after your passing. While it is true that the Legislature has “intestacy laws” in place that control an individual’s estate should they pass without a will or other estate plan, it is usually a vast departure from what our clients expected. The good news is that making a simple (and comprehensive) estate plan is easily accomplished. Follow these four simple steps to prepare your simple state plan:
1. Last Will and Testament – Everyone needs their own Last Will. This is the document that sets out who will be in charge of administering your estate and how your estate will be divided. The proper execution of your will is paramount. A will made in another state may not necessarily meet the requirements of the State of Florida. Because there can only be one original of this document it is important to keep your Last Will updated.
2. Durable Power of Attorney – Because a Last Will only controls your estate after you pass, everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). The DPOA is a comprehensive document permitting the person named therein (the “Attorney-in-Fact”) to act for you in the event you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own. The “durable” nature of the document means that the document continues to be an effective grant of power to the Attorney-in-Fact while you are incapacitated. As with the Last Will, this document is required to be signed in a specific manner to be valid.
3. Living Will – If you remember the Terri Schiavo case (wiki article here) there is no need to explain why you need a Living Will. It is the document that expresses your desire to be removed from life support in the event you are incapacitated and it has been determined by your physician that (i) you are in a permanent vegetative state; (ii) have been diagnosed with an end stage condition or (iii) have a terminal illness. This is not a order to pull the plug if the conditions are met, but instead it names an individual person with whom you place the authority of making the decision along with the recommendation of your physician. A Living Will is not the same as a “do not resuscitate.”
4. Health care surrogate – This document has become even more important in recent years. Where a Durable Power of Attorney mainly concerns financial and business matters, the Health Care Surrogate (HCS) is a directive wherein you appoint one or more persons to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable. Just like the Living Will, the HCS is not an order which preempts the medical advice of your physicians, but instead a document that gives your physicians the ability to consult the individuals named about important health related matters should you be unable to.
Contact our office to see about scheduling an appointment to begin your simple estate plan.