Given the unique nature of estate planning, no two estate plans will be exactly the same. Nevertheless, there are some common tools and strategies found in the average estate plan. There are also some documents that should be in almost every estate plan. A Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas & Crawford explains the documents that should be in every estate plan.
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation of most estate plans. Executing a Will ensures that you will not leave behind an intestate estate. Dying intestate means the state decides what happens to your estate assets using the state intestate succession laws. Instead, your Will allows you to make specific and/or general gifts to loved ones. In addition, your Will lets you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. The Executor is responsible for overseeing the administration of your estate. Finally, your Will offers you the only opportunity you have to officially nominate a Guardian for your minor child should one ever be needed. Although you may eventually expand your estate plan, your Will should never be completely eliminated.
Trusts are routinely found in the average estate plan because of the flexible nature of a trust. A trust is a relationship where property is held by one party for the benefit of another party. A trust is created by the owner, also called a “Settlor”, “Trustor” or “Grantor” who transfers property to a Trustee. The Trustee holds that property for the trust’s beneficiaries. Trusts are broadly divided into two categories, testamentary and living trusts. A testamentary trust does not activate until after the death of the Settlor whereas a living trust takes effect as soon as all the trust agreement is in place and the trust is funded. A living trust can be further divided into revocable and irrevocable living trusts. A trust can help achieve a wide variety of estate planning goals and can even serve as the foundation of your estate plan if probate avoidance is desirable.
There may come a time in your life when you cannot make health care decisions for yourself because of your own incapacity. Advance directives help you plan for that possibility. State of Florida recognizes the following types of advance directives:
- Florida Designation of Health Care Surrogate– this lets you name someone as your “Agent” to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make them yourself.
- Florida Living Will – allows you to give specific instructions about any aspect of your health care, such as your wishes with regard to the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of treatment to keep you alive, as well as the provision of pain relief.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone as your Agent to act on your behalf in legal transactions. A general power of attorney (POA) gives your Agent almost unfettered authority to act on your behalf while a limited POA only gives your Agent the specific authority indicated in the POA agreement. If you make any POA durable it means that your Agent’s authority will survive your incapacity.
Letter of Instructions
As the name implies, this document is really just a letter that allows you to explain decisions made in your estate plan or addresses issues not covered elsewhere in your plan. A Letter of Instructions is not a legally binding document; however, it can go a long way toward preventing conflict and litigation if you have made decisions within your plan that may be controversial or confusing to loved ones.
Contact a Vero Beach Estate Planning Attorney
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about your estate plan, please contact an experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.