Florida Estate Planning

Unfortunately, nearly half of all Americans do not have a will, or any other estate planning documents in place at the time of  their death.  The list of reasons for not preparing important estate planning documents is long and varied. Maybe you just don’t want to discuss or even think about death. Perhaps you feel you are still young and “have time”, so you’ll get to it tomorrow, or maybe you don’t have enough money to worry about it or take action now.

Some people put it off because they are married, and believe their spouse gets everything when they die anyways. Others believe that because they don’t have children there’s no need to plan, or even worse, they have children but believe the other parent or a grandparent will handle everything.  Death is certainly not a subject most people enjoy discussing, or facing, but unfortunately, none of these excuses matter if you fail to prepare for the inevitable.

Whether a person dies from natural causes late in life or due to a freak and tragic accident at any age, failure to have an established estate plan can cause a significant emotional and financial burden on loved ones during an already difficult grieving process. It is usually the loved ones–whether friends, family, children or spouses–who often become responsible for gathering the deceased person’s assets, paying their debts and taxes, making funeral arrangements, and dealing with the Courts and creditors involved in a Florida probate administration. More than anything else, the difficulty or ease of their jobs, will depend on how much preparation is done before death.

If you have possessions of any kind, are you a parent to minor children, you need to do some kind of estate planning. Estate planning is, in its simplest terms, a set of instructions about what should be done with your minor children, as well as your things–whether money, possessions, family heirlooms, investments, a home or anything else you own–both before and after you die. Without the necessary legal paperwork prepared ahead of time, the State will then decide how to dispose of your belongings as well as who should take care of your minor children.

Estate planning isn’t just about planning for death. What if a heart attack, car accident, or the infirmities of old age, leave you incapacitated, crippled, or brain dead? Who then will make medical decisions for you, pay your bills, raise your children or decide whether to continue extraordinary means to keep you alive?

Estate planning comes in many forms and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Unfortunately, in many situations estate planning attorneys will take a somewhat factory line approach to estate planning. The result can be poorly drafted estate planning documents that are not unique to the particular facts, circumstances, and goals of each individual client.

While working for a boutique estate and trust litigation firm for almost 7 years, Mr. Taylor has become intimately familiar with many of the pitfalls that can arise from poorly drafted estate planning documents.  Poorly drafted wills, trusts, or documents designating healthcare surrogates and powers of attorney can become just as costly and burdensome on family and loved ones as having no plan at all. Poor planning often results in families becoming embroiled in litigation over their inheritance, or determining how to handle the disposition of the deceased’s remains.  These disputes result in additional, often significant fees and costs being paid to professionals left picking up the pieces.

If your documents don’t have the proper legal wording–which is often the case with simple do-it-yourself forms found online–or isn’t properly witnessed at the time of execution,  all estate planning efforts can be completely ignored by a Florida Court, which will only  recognizes documents prepared and executed with the formalities required under Florida Law.

The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to make them known, and to have them properly documented in an easily understandable, and lawful form.

Mr. Taylor provides a free one-hour consultation during which he will listen, ask pertinent questions and get a general understanding of your unique circumstances and estate planning goals. The fees and costs associated with preparing the appropriate estate planning documents to accomplish your goals is determined on a case-by-case basis, and both hourly and flat fee arrangements are available.

The following documents and services are available to accomplish your estate planning objectives and to facilitate the distribution of your assets after death or the management of your affairs in the event of incapacity:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Will Codicils
  • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
  • Amendment and Restatement of Trust
  • Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney
  • Designation of Healthcare Surrogate
  • Designation of Pre-Need Guardian or Guardian for Minor Child
  • Determination and Designation of Beneficiaries and titling of assets to avoid probate (real property, life insurance, bank accounts, pension and retirement plans, etc.)

Please contact the Law Offices of Christopher P. Taylor, PA to discuss your estate planning needs and goals today.