Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF I DIE WITHOUT WILL?
A power of attorney appoints an agent to act on your behalf and states what powers you convey to your agent or attorney in fact. There are two types of power of attorney: General Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney. A general power of attorney ceases to be effective upon your incapacity while a durable power of attorney remains in effect during your incapacity. Once signed, a power of attorney is effective immediately. Therefore, you should be careful who you name as your agent.
Q. WHAT IS A TRUST?
A trust is an agreement created by an individual referred to as a grantor or settlor, which conveys powers to a trustee, for the management of assets in the trust. There are different types of trusts used in estate planning depending on the needs of each family. For example: a revocable trust agreement provides for the management and distribution of assets during life and may provide for instructions for distribution of assets after the death of the grantor/settlor; irrevocable trusts are frequently used for tax planning and asset protection; Special Needs Trusts are often used for families with loved ones with special needs (medical or otherwise).
Q. WHAT IS GUARDIANSHIP?
Guardianship is the legal proceeding by which the court declares an individual legally incapacitated and remove some or all of his/her legal rights. This incapacitated individual then becomes a Ward and the person who is appointed to care for the incapacitated individual and their property is called a guardian. The guardian of both the incapacitated person and their property may not necessarily be the same individual. The court may appoint an individual as the guardian of the incapacitated person, and/or the guardian of the incapacitated person's property. Guardianship proceedings are supervised by the court and can be costly and time consuming. Generally guardianship proceedings are avoided if you have an effective power of attorney in place.
Q. WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is a legal proceeding in which the court addresses the issues in your estate upon death. The court will appoint a personal representative to gather your assets and address issues such as creditor’s claims and other claims against your estate, tax liabilities, and distribution of assets. In Florida, the court allows for a Simplified or Summary Administration for estates based on a statutory amount of non-exempt assets, or for a General or Full administration for all other estates exceeding the statutory amount and for estates with special issues which must be addressed by the court.
Q. WHY DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY? CAN I USE AN ONLINE SERVICE FOR MY DOCUMENTS?
On-line document assembly software and do-it-yourself forms do not give you legal advice or answer your questions. Only a competent attorney does so. An attorney will ask you questions you may not have thought about, provide suggestions, give you sound legal advice, and work with you to achieve your goals, not just provide you with a form you may not adequately understand. If you create your own estate plan without legal counsel, you may not know if there are errors until you become incapacitated or die. Correcting the drafting of estate planning mistakes can be costly and more stressful for your loved ones than initially working with a competent attorney. Our firm specializes in estate planning and estates administration. We look forward to working with you.
Q. WHY DO I NEED AN ESTATE PLAN?
Estate Planning allows an individual or family to make definitive decisions about life long goals such as caring for themselves, family, loved ones, or their community during their life. An estate plan allows you to plan for life changing events such as marriage, children and caring for extended family and loved ones. It also allows you to plan for unexpected events such as incapacity and ultimately for the management and distribution of assets after your death.