Eight Steps To Implement An Effective Estate Plan
Everyone eighteen years or older should complete some, if not all, of the actions outlined below.
If you are married, it is essential that you protect your spouse as well as yourself.
If you have minor children, it is negligent not to have these protective documents.
For one who is elderly or seriously ill, time is crucial and they should act immediately to create peace and security in their life
1. LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT directs the manner in which your assets are to be divided and distributed and then appoints the Personal Representative (identical to an Executor) to administer your estate. If you have minor children, your Will also appoints a Guardian and Trustee to care for them and manage the assets you leave to provide for them. If you die without a Will, the State of Florida has intestate laws that govern how your assets will be divided and into whose care your minor children may be entrusted, which may be totally different than your wishes and can often create chaos for your loved ones.
2. In addition to a Last Will and Testament you may wish to add a REVOCABLE INTER VIVOS TRUST, (i.e. “Living Trust”) to your estate plan. This Trust is designed to avoid the need to institute a probate administration (saving your beneficiaries time and money). However, there are also additional costs and work involved to complete and implement a Trust. When we meet, we can review the pros and cons of a Trust and make recommendations based upon your specific circumstances.
3. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY authorizes a trusted agent (a family member, friend or professional advisor) to handle your financial, legal and business affairs, if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. This document will limit the chance of a costly, unwanted Court- appointed Guardian to take control of your finances and perhaps complete control of your life.
4. HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY (or Healthcare Surrogate) appoints a caring family member or trusted friend to make medical decisions, give consent for medical procedures and otherwise help direct your medical care if you are unable to do so for yourself, again reducing the possibility of unwanted control, cost and delay of the Court’s intervention. This document also waives the very restrictive HIPAA privacy laws which can obstruct or hinder the ability to get your medical records from one doctor/hospital to another doctor/hospital when time is of the essence.
5. LIVING WILL DECLARATION is a documented personal choice whether or not you wish to have extraordinary medical means (i.e. usually a respirator and feeding tube) employed on a long term basis in order to maintain your body when you are unable to communicate; two doctors must determine that you have a terminal condition. This limits the possibility of confusion and controversy and reduces the possibility of the Court’s involvement during a very difficult time for you and your loved ones. You might remember the awful, public political circus surrounding the Terry Schiavo case.
6. DECLARATION OF PRENEED GUARDIAN is used in the unlikely event that you do become the subject of an involuntary Guardianship proceeding, a Declaration of Preneed Guardian assures that a Guardian of your choice will be appointed. This is becoming a valuable document since many are diagnosed with a dementia later in life.
7. In addition to properly drafting and executing the above named documents, it is imperative to review all the BENEFICIARY CLAUSES of your estate contracts, i.e., insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts, etc., to insure that the beneficiaries of your choice are properly named both as primary and secondary beneficiaries, e.g., “to my spouse, unless she predeceases me, then to my children in equal shares”. You will decide if the monies are available directly to your beneficiaries or IN TRUST.
8. Our office also recommends that you complete a FINANCIAL INVENTORY LISTING all your assets (real estate, insurance, retirement accounts, bank and stock accounts, etc.) and the locations of all key documents (Wills, Trusts, Deeds, Insurance Policies, etc.). This will save time for your Personal Representative or Trustee and also avoid any confusion and unnecessarily spending of money during a difficult time for your loved ones; this step insures that all of your valuable assets are accounted for and that your trusted advisors, such as your attorney, CPA and financial advisors, are known by your Personal Representative.
Buist Law provides you with an ESTATE PLANNING BINDER where you can keep all of this information in addition to special instructions, directions and funeral wishes. It is not a direct part of our business, and we do not receive remuneration but we do mention to clients that they may wish to consider leaving instructions for final arrangements, organ donation or even making pre-arrangements to avoid unnecessary expense, which will be greatly appreciated by loved in their time of bereavement.
PERSONAL MESSAGE. Many people choose to leave a Personal Testament which is a personal message left for loved ones which can be a formal, lengthy statement or a short, informal letter. When requested, we assist clients to put their thoughts into words or to help draft this often precious written legacy without altering their emotion, meaning or message.
BUSINESS SUCCESSION PLANNING. Many people who own and operate their own business will choose to implement a Business Succession Plan to insure the transfer of their business to the next generation. If this is important to you, we at Buist Law can help you draft these documents alongside your Estate Plan.
The above is intended to be a brief but thorough survey of the steps that most people should consider with regard to an estate plan. However, depending on the complexity of one’s life, your family, friends, business, assets, wishes, etc., estate planning can be very easy or relatively complicated and involved. Through our office you will receive the guidance and assistance necessary for you to complete the simplest of estate plans or the most complex. Each client, no matter how large or small his or her estate, is afforded complete and individual confidentiality, attention and respect. We hope you will consider visiting our office to review your existing estate plan, discuss a new plan or answer any questions you may have.
Additionally, if you have loved ones who are aged or ill, please encourage or even assist them to take advantage of our offer of a free consultation. Having their affairs in order can provide protections, savings and peace of mind.
As if often said, “no one plans to fail but often, one fails to plan”. There is no area of human endeavor where that saying is more prophetic.