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What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need in Florida?

An estate plan typically begins with a will or a living trust. Estate planning is the process of designating your assets and responsibilities in the event of your death or incapacitation. No matter how large or modestly-sized the estate, it's important to provide instructions to ensure your wishes are carried out. Now, the question is: where do you start?

Here are the documents you’ll need for estate planning in Florida.

Critical Documents for Estate Planning in Florida

The three core estate planning documents in Florida are:

1.  A last will and testament

A will covers the disposition of your assets after your death. It’s a legal document that names your executor and stipulates the distribution of your property.

Some people think only the very wealthy or the elderly need wills. However, failure to create one will leave decisions about your estate in the hands of state officials, which can needlessly burden your family.

A will maximizes the chances that your wishes will be carried out. In Florida, certain formalities are required to ensure the viability of your last will and testament: testamentary intent, attestation, and signature by the testators.

These formalities serve as evidence that the document is the testator’s last will and testament and serve to prevent fraud. All in all, the last will serves as an instruction manual for the Florida probate court to ensure your assets end up in the right hands.

2.  A durable power of attorney

A disability, or durable, powers of attorney names someone to take care of your finances if ever you’re incapacitated. No one likes to think about disability, yet no one is invulnerable to it. With a valid power of attorney, a person you trust will be legally permitted to handle certain matters on your behalf – for instance, handling your investments, paying bills, and managing your medical care needs.

The “durability” in the durable power of attorney ensures that the assigned powers or responsibilities continue until the principal’s death, making the document fundamental to estate planning. The court will impose a conservatorship for those who become incapacitated without a durable power of attorney.

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3.  A living will or healthcare directive

An advanced healthcare directive outlines your wishes for medical care if you can't make decisions on your behalf. In Florida, the advanced medical directive generally includes two documents: living will and designation of healthcare surrogate.

A living will, Do Not Resuscitate or DNR, is a legal document that details which medical treatments you would or would not want to be used to keep you alive. It also sets out your preferences for pain management and organ donation.

A designation of healthcare surrogate. Now, this is a document that ensures your health care wishes are honored. Essentially, it's an incapacity planning document that names your healthcare advocate. The healthcare surrogate is permitted to make health care decisions and provide, withhold, or withdraw consent on your behalf.

It works pretty much like your durable power of attorney, except for healthcare decisions, not financial and legal matters.

Other Estate Planning Documents

Of course, you may need more than these three documents to ensure end-of-life wishes are fully covered. For this reason, it’s imperative to talk with an experienced estate planning professional who’ll tailor your estate plan to your specific needs and preferences.

Other documents you might need include:

4.  A Petition for Formal Administration

When somebody passes away, their assets have to go through a probate before being transferred to the heirs. A Petition for Formal Administration is the formal document used to open a probate case in the state of Florida.

5.  A Revocable Living Trust

Are you worried about how your beneficiaries will manage their inheritance once you pass away? A Florida Revocable Living Trust allows you some control over your money – even after passing. It ensures specific beneficiaries receive a certain amount of assets throughout a defined period of time.

It’s also used to avoid probate and minimize estate taxes.

6.  Special Needs Trust

A Special Needs Trust provides children or adults, limited by a physical or mental disability or chronic illness, with necessary care in the absence of a caregiver.

It also allows such persons to receive income without reducing their eligibility for disability benefits provided by Social Security, Medicare, or Supplemental Security Income programs.

7.  Appointment of Guardianship

The state of Florida allows for both voluntary and involuntary guardianship. Appointment of Guardianship protects the interests of a child by appointing a capable hand to make decisions on their behalf. There is also adult guardianship for those who require a certain level of care, such as incapacitated or elderly individuals.

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Set Up Your Estate Plan Today

An estate plan is paramount for adults of all ages. It protects you and your loved ones, and it can be updated throughout the years.

Consult an estate planning attorney to guide you through the process. One small oversight can create needless tax liabilities for your beneficiaries or cost your estate thousands of dollars in probate costs.

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