Traditional "Estate Planning" centered around the manner in which a person disposed of his or her assets upon death, and the avoidance or reduction of estate taxes. These are important considerations, but today, in this age of great medical advances, people are living much longer than in the past, and it has become apparent that there needs to be an estate plan that determines how a person will live if they are unable to care for themselves during their advanced years.
If you do nothing to plan for your possible incapacity, the State of Florida has laws regarding incompetency and guardianship which will make those decisions for you. Wouldn't you rather decide for yourself how you will live and who will take care of you and your affairs under those circumstances?
Fortunately, we now have the tools available to allow an individual to "tailor" an estate plan to meet his or her particular needs and desires, both during life and upon death. What are these tools?
You have the right to make decisions based upon your own desires and beliefs, even if others disagree with you. To do this, there are questions which you need to consider and answer before you make decisions regarding your future. Primary among these questions are:
- Living Trusts
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Designation of Pre-Need Guardian
- Living Wills
- Health Care Powers of Attorney and Designation of Health Care Surrogate
In attempting to answer some of the questions presented above, you may decide that you need the assistance of someone experienced in estate planning to explain the options available to you and the advantages and disadvantages of each. A qualified attorney is the only professional that can explain all of the options available, and implement your plan by drafting all of the documents you have determined will be necessary.
- Who will make personal decisions for me if I am unable to make them for myself?
- Who will make healthcare decisions for me if I am unable to make them for myself?
- Who will handle my property and make decisions regarding my investments?
- Who will pay my bills?
- In the event of my death, who will be the personal representative (executor) of my estate?
- Who will be the beneficiaries of my estate?
- If I have a living trust, who will be the trustee upon my death or incapacity?
- With regard to all of the questions above, what happens if any of the people designated die before me?
- What measures should be taken to keep me alive if I am terminally ill with no reasonable hope of recovery?
- What do I own (i.e. real estate, stocks, bonds, CD's, bank accounts, insurance, annutities, retirement accounts, etc.) and how do I own it (i.e. my name alone, or jointly with someone else)?