Wills & Trust Information
PowerLegal, P.A. offers clients a variety of estate planning options. Here
are descriptions of some of the basic estate planning documents offered:
The cornerstone of traditional estate planning is the drafting and signing of a Last Will &
Testament. The purpose of a Last Will & Testament is to direct how property owned by
you at the time of your death is to be distributed to your heirs.
There are many misconceptions about getting a will done. First, the drafting of a last will is not a time-consuming task. Because of technological advancements in document preparation, I am able to draft the last will for a typical client in less than an hour. That is why I can price the document at $95.00. Remember, I am a lawyer, not a document preparer. The value you receive for your money includes access to an attorney who will answer your questions, who will address your concerns, and who will make sure your last will complies with Florida legal requirements. You cannot get that value or service from an on-line, non-lawyer, legal document preparation site.
Second, you do not need to spend hours gathering financial documents before discussing
your estate planning situation with your attorney. The lawyer does not need a list of all
your property and financial accounts. For example, say you wish to leave your estate to
three people in equal shares. The attorney does not need to know the location and
account numbers of all your different bank and brokerage accounts to achieve such a distribution plan.
The manner in which you sign your will is just as important as what you put in it. If a will is not signed properly, its contents are not enforceable. To be valid, a will must have two witnesses. The witnesses sign the will stating that they watched the will maker - "the testator”- sign the document after hearing a declaration that the document was his or her Last Will & Testament. I will assist you in the process of getting the will correctly witnessed to make sure it is valid.
Trusts are created for a variety of reasons. The person who creates a trust is called either a “grantor” or a “settlor.” Trusts typically are used to control the distribution, management and availability of money from one generation to the next. A trust may be created by provisions in a person’s last will and testament. A trust which is created by a person’s last will is called a testamentary trust. Many of the wills I draft for clients contain testamentary trusts. Clients use testamentary trusts to manage and safeguard money for people who are too young or too financially irresponsible to manage their inheritance.
People may also create trusts that become operational before they die. A trust which becomes operational before its creator dies is sometimes referred to as a “living trust.” The typical living trust often names the settlor as both a trustee and beneficiary for as long as the settlor lives. Most living trusts have provisions for a successor trustee should the settlor trustee die or become unable to perform his or her duties.
Example: Suppose you are incapacitated by a stroke after you have created a living trust in which you are both the trustee and the main beneficiary for as long as you live. Because you are incapacitated, it is unlikely that you are able to take care of financial obligations like paying routine bills. Should such an unfortunate occurrence befall you, your successor trustee will take over the living trust and see that the trust continues to be managed for your benefit. If the trust was properly constructed and funded, the successor trustee does not need to go to court to seek the appointment of a guardianship over those assets already titled to the trust. Since the trust has already authorized your successor trustee to take over the role as trustee in the event of your incapacity, the successor trustee now controls the assets of the trust and may see that your financial obligations are satisfied and see that your needs are met.
Another reason that living trusts are popular is because assets in the trust are able to pass to the beneficiaries without going through probate. Probate is the judicial process of re-titling a decedent’s assets to the heirs of the decedent. The assets in a trust have already been re-titled out of the decedent’s name. Therefore, probate is not necessary for those trust assets.
Some of the positive aspects about living trusts include the fact they can be made revocable at the time of their creation. That is to say the settlor can modify or cancel the trust at the settlor’s discretion. Additionally, your revocable trust does not need a separate tax identification number. It is not necessary to file a separate tax return for a revocable trust.
There are other estate planning reasons for creating a living trust. Many people with a high net worth (typically over $1,000,000.00) use trusts to shelter assets from federal estate taxes that may otherwise be owed upon their death. The technicalities and complexities of these estate tax shelter trusts require in-depth explanations beyond the scope of our web site’s purpose. Should you retain our law firm, I will determine during the client interview phase if this type of sophisticated tax planning trust is appropriate for your situation.
LIVING WILLS & HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES
All states recognize living wills. The living will is typically used when a person is so gravely ill or injured that death is imminent. Its basic purpose is to advise healthcare providers as to what steps they should take to keep you alive artificially if your body is not able to sustain itself. A living will sets forth your health care directives ahead of any traumatic injury or condition that might leave you unable to communicate.
On the other hand, less severe illnesses and injuries may not be life-threatening but may, nonetheless, render a person incapable of communicating health care choices. In anticipation of such a situation, a document called a “Designation of a Health Care Surrogate” is prepared to deal with those issues. In your Designation of a Health Care Surrogate you designate a person of your choice to act as your health care representative should you be incapacitated and no longer capable of communicating your preferences.
PLEASE CONTACT ME IF I HAVE NOT COVERED AN AREA OF ESTATE PLANNING OR PROBATE ABOUT WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE INFORMATION
Contact me about your legal matter today!